OKLAHOMA CITY — For James Harden, the notion that he could impact a game just as much off the bench as he would from the starting lineup didn’t really click until he was forced to test it out.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded starters Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston in the middle of last season, it put Harden in a bigger role — even if he still was the first player off the bench.
In his first season fully understanding the role, Harden won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award after leading all bench players in scoring.
“A lot more opportunities have come my way,” Harden said Thursday after accepting the award. “All I did was just took advantage of them.”
Harden averaged 16.8 points on career-best 49 percent shooting this season, and he recorded his first career 40-point game last month in a win at Phoenix. The bearded combo guard also became known in the final week of the regular season when he sustained a concussion while taking an elbow from the Los Angeles Lakers’ Metta World Peace.
He recovered in time to return for the playoffs and was the star of the Thunder’s fourth-quarter comeback to beat Dallas in the clinching Game 4 of their opening round sweep.
For more, see Friday's Tahlequah Daily Press.