DeMarre Carroll was looking forward to another chance to defend James Harden.
It’s won’t happen.
Rockets All-Star Harden was suspended for Tuesday’s game against the Hawks after he kicked the Cavaliers’ LeBron James in the groin during a nationally televised game Sunday.
Carroll, the Hawks defensive stopper, would have likely drawn the assignment of guarding the NBA’s leading scorer.
“I was focused for Harden the whole week,” Carroll said. “I told one of my coaches this messes up me getting on my (All-NBA) defensive teams. I look to play guys like this. Me being a competitor, you want to play the best. I want to play Harden. … I’ve got to change my focus. They have a lot of good guys and I have to get ready for them.”
Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Corey Brewer would start in place of Harden.
McHale revisited his playing days when asked how such an incident between Harden and James would have been handled in the past.
“It was a different time, different game,” McHale said. “Those scrums were pretty much ‘Go back to your bench and stop doing that you guys.’ Honestly, that wouldn’t have rose to the occasion of anything more than an admonishment from the referee of ‘Stop that. You are ruining the game.’ Times have changed.”
McHale said the absence of Harden will be noticed but that the Rockets have to move forward.
“Not having James, we’re losing a big part of our offense,” McHale said. “Guys have to come out and play. We have to attack more early in the clock, get out and down the floor, our defense has got to be solid, we have to be able to run off our defense. Everybody is going to have to pitch in with the playoff making. We’ll go out and our goal hasn’t change. It’s just that James isn’t playing.”
* As I reported yesterday, all Hawks are available for tonight’s game. Coach Mike Budenholzer will return to his normal lineup of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford.