NEW YORK — James Harden “definitely” plans to make his Los Angeles Clippers debut on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
He can’t be as certain how long it will take his new team to turn into the club he thinks can help him win his first NBA championship.
Harden joined the Clippers last week after finally getting the trade he sought from the Philadelphia 76ers since the summer. He spent recent days watching film of the Clippers and participating in some 5-on-5 workouts with his new teammates.
He’s ready to move beyond that. Asked Sunday if he expected to play against the New York Knicks, Harden responded: “Definitely.”
The 2018 NBA MVP shares the opponent scoring record at the current Madison Square Garden with Kobe Bryant, having scored 61 points for Houston on Jan. 23, 2019. He wasn’t that type of explosive scorer with the 76ers, with a role more centered on setting up All-Star center Joel Embiid.
Harden figures to take turns as scorer and distributor with the Clippers, who have Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Coach Tyronn Lue said Westbrook would largely handle the point guard duties and Harden would play off the ball when they are on the floor together.
The Clippers should be a title contender if those four players remain healthy, though Harden has been on teams before whose hopes were wrecked by untimely injuries. So he knows all they can do is use the season to make sure they are as ready if possible.
“It’s a game by game, step by step and I think we’re building to be really good in the postseason,” Harden said. “So obviously there’s going to be good times, some bad times in the NBA season, which I think every team goes through that. So I think for us, it’s just making sure we’re prepared when it’s time.”