James Harden looking for ballhandling help

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HOUSTON -- James Harden said at the Houston Rockets' exit interviews on Friday that he wants to alleviate some of his ballhandling responsibilities next season.

Harden, the runner-up for 2014-15 MVP, committed an NBA playoff record 13 turnovers in a loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors that ended the Rockets' season.

He finished the postseason fourth in scoring (27.4 points per game) and fourth in assists (7.5 assists per game) but first in turnovers (4.5 turnovers per game).

Harden said he has plans to speak with general manager Daryl Morey about either getting a point guard in free agency or using the ones currently on the roster to help with the ballhandling.

“Yeah, definitely, that’s one of the conversations that me and Daryl are going to have, and the coaches, is one of the pieces we need to have,” Harden said. “That’s a later conversation, but we’ll be all right. We’re very confident in the group that we have and this summer we got to work hard and be ready for next year.”

Harden touched the ball 81.6 percent of the time in the postseason, finishing eighth among players who played a minimum of 10 games. His 1,387 total touches were second in the postseason. His turnover ratio of 13.3 percent was beaten by only Tony Allen (14.4) and Matthew Dellavedova (13.4) among players who participated in 10 or more playoff games.

Energy became a question late in the season. Harden averaged the second-most playing time in the NBA during the regular season (36.8 minutes per game) and had little rest during the summer after playing in the FIBA World Cup. After handling double-teams well in the regular season, he struggled to get out of them as quickly.

Starting point guard Patrick Beverley missed the postseason with a torn ligament in his wrist. With Beverley out, veterans Jason Terry (who is more of a combo guard) and Pablo Prigioni took over at point guard.

Beverley, a restricted free agent, is expected to return. The 37-year-old Terry, an unrestricted free agent, wants to come back as well.

But there are expected to be several attractive options at point guard on the free-agent market this summer, including Goran Dragic, Rajon Rondo, Jeremy Lin and Mo Williams.

The Rockets tried to reacquire Dragic at the trade deadline, but ESPN's Marc Stein reported in February that the point guard, who was eventually sent to Miami, were "not likely to secure long-term commitment from the PG."

After sent home in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks for an apparent back injury and his indifferent play, Rondo doesn’t seem to fit the chemistry-concerned Rockets.

Lin has played for the Rockets before, and there is a feeling he can become more a distributor this time around.

Of course, if the Rockets do add another ball handler, it would mean Harden would have to to alter his game to play alongside him.

“I think he has to move without the ball,” coach Kevin McHale said of Harden. “I think he has an area of growth that he can’t really work on and we talked about that I think he’ll get better at that. James has improved every year that he’s been here and that’s got to be something we help him with and something he can help himself with. I do think that off the ball for him would help him, which means we got to get more movement, more body movement, more ball movement. He’s got to get off the ball, got to play off the catch a little bit quicker, got to play off our actions a little bit quicker. But those are all things we can do.”

Said Harden: “Yeah, like I said, we're pretty good with what we have. Maybe another piece or so. We made it this far with a couple of our guys injured and banged up. Put those guys together we’ll be a lot better.”