Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue believes James Harden has been “too polite” since joining the team, with Sunday’s 105-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies representing their fifth successive defeat.
Harden has gone 0-4 since joining the Clippers in a blockbuster trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, who received Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, KJ Martin and multiple draft picks in the deal last month.
On Harden’s fourth outing with the Clippers, and his first at Crypto.com Arena, he missed six of his seven three-pointers and managed just 11 points as the team slipped to 3-6 for the season.
Lue is the man tasked with the responsibility of getting the Clippers’ star quartet of Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook firing, and he just wants the new arrival to play his natural game.
“He’s being too polite,” Lue said after Sunday’s defeat. “I think he’s doing too much to try to fit in, so that’s on me.
“Just yesterday we had a talk amongst the team, and he just has to be James Harden.
“He led the league in assists the last two or three years, and making plays and what he does in the pick-and-roll, he’s great. So we have to allow him to be himself.
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“I think the whole group hearing that and understanding that we’re going to play through James, he’s going to run pick-and-rolls, he’s going to make plays… They understood that.
“So now he feels more comfortable, but he doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, and I understand that he just has to have respect for PG, Kawhi, Russ, because they’ve been here.
“But we need James to be James, and so that’s on me to make sure I make him be James.”
Harden is averaging 13.5 points, five rebounds and 4.2 assists per game with the Clippers, having averaged 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists through 58 regular-season games with the Sixers last season.