After the Houston Rockets were wiped out from the playoffs with a 39-point whipping on their home court by the San Antonio Spurs, everyone wanted to know what happened to James Harden.
The Rockets’ prime playmaker went from MVP candidate to elimination-game chump. He had averaged 30.3 points in the first 10 playoff games this season, but scored just 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting Thursday night and had several head-scratching lowlights with six turnovers.
How could Harden be so bad after carrying his team all season, scoring 29.1 points and leading the league with 11.2 assists per game during the regular season?
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith believes he has an answer.
“I think there needs to be an investigation to be quite honest with you. He looked like he was drugged out there for crying out loud, literally comatose,” Smith said on “SportsCenter.”
Despite all-league defender Kawhi Leonard, who primarily guarded Harden through the first five games, missing the game with an ankle injury, Harden was extremely passive. He didn’t exert himself offensively early. He passed up early shot opportunities. He scored only two points in the first quarter and didn’t officially attempt his first field goal until nearly halfway through the second quarter. At halftime, he had five points on two field goal attempts.
For his part, Harden took the blame for the Rockets’ loss and said in the post-game news conference that he never felt he could get in a rhythm.
Smith believed there was something more sinister to blame. Later in his “SportsCenter” segment, he doubled down on his accusations and demand for a probe:
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how to explain it. There needs to be an investigation. Somebody might have slipped something into his drink. Somebody might have done something to him. I have no clue, but it is not James Harden. That was not James Harden that showed up for the Houston Rockets tonight. Somebody with his jersey showed up. It wasn’t him.”
Aside from Smith’s invasion-of-the-body-snatchers’ theory, if his belief that someone drugged Harden was correct, it seems awfully conspicuous that the Rockets star was later seen at a nightclub in Houston partying the night away. According to TMZ, he also later went to a local strip club.