by Alex Poletti
Photo by Sports Illustrated
A 5-3 start to the season doesn’t cut it for perennial MVP candidate James Harden, who shocked many this morning by shaving his beard to give him an aerodynamic edge over other players.
“Mike [D’Antoni] keeps telling us to play harder,” the third overall pick in the 2009 draft says. “And I realized that what’s been weighing me down isn’t my lackluster defense or egoistic tendencies on the court, but the literal weight of my beard. It was time to let it go.”
Through the first tenth of the season, Harden and the Houston Rockets sit in fifth place in the Western Conference. While this is nothing to scoff at—Houston seems guaranteed to clinch a playoff berth—they have higher goals in mind.
“People always talk about the Lakers and the Clippers as having the best duos,” Daryl Morey says after being let out of his Chinese prison cell for a few moments, “but they forget that we have quite a duo, too. Maybe not the best talentwise, but in terms of sheer asshole-ness, we definitely take the cake.”
To combat moves made by other Western Conference contenders, the Rockets traded for former MVP Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook is a notoriously bald player, which may have informed Harden’s decision to shave.
“I looked at Russ, and he just zooms down the court,” Harden says. “His bald head and dearth of facial hair acts like lube in the air—he just slips right on down the court without friction.”
Even though the beard is a major selling point for Harden, management was behind his decision 100 percent. Sources tell The Second String that the Rockets’ emphasis on analytic playmaking was a major factor in their decision.
“The intangibles of the beard speak for themselves,” head coach Mike D’Antoni says. “But the advanced metrics can’t be looked past. If we look at how much the beard weighs and how much it impacts the friction coefficient, we find that the beard takes about .003 seconds off of every run down the court. While that doesn’t seem like much, that adds up over the course of the season.”
D’Antoni acknowledges that other than the momentary shock other players will have by just looking at James Harden’s full face, the impacts will be hard to notice. However, he ended the interview by putting the benefits in terms we can all understand.
“This could be the difference between getting eliminated in game four of the second round by the Lakers versus getting eliminated in game five of the second round by the Lakers,” the coach explains.