The Oklahoma City Thunder will be the first NBA team in history to field four players in the Olympics. While players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the USA, along with Serge Ibaka for Spain were thought as likely selections, one player who made it was on the fringe through much of the selection process. That player, would be James Harden.
Harden's choice has raised the eyebrows of a few, but as Royce Young of the Daily Thunder points out, this selection had just as much to do with injuries and versatility.
Some seem to be wondering why Harden, but here's why: With two spots remaining between Andre Iguodala, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and Harden, Coach K and Jerry Colangelo went with Iguodala, an elite wing defender and Harden, a versatile ball-handler that can play three spots. Harden can handle, pass, shoot, score and obviously has an incredible ability to blend in well with anyone on the floor. He gives Team USA a fourth point guard, a knock down shooter and a player that will probably fit the international style of basketball extremely well.
Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo also commented on the Harden selection, speaking on the tough choice of choosing Harden over Gordon.
"I think he surprised people, two months ago he was on the radar screen, but not shining brightly necessarily. Given the opportunity, he finished so strongly this season, he gave us something to really sit back and think about. He has size, he has length at his position. Defensively, he's more than adequate. He comes up with a lot of loose balls, a lot of steals and he is a scorer. And by the way, he can also shoot it. I think there's a little bit of a difference between the two. Tough choice we had to make, Eric Gordon, James Harden. Harden deserved it for the reasons I mentioned and we expect him coming off the bench as he did and he's accustomed to and to play whenever he's called upon."
The Olympics have a way of helping players evolve their games into the following season, and if it can have any effect on Harden and his Thunder teammates, then next season could make for a very interesting ride.