We're just one game into the Warriors' Western Conference semifinals showdown with the Houston Rockets, and all the talk is centering on James Harden, his style of play and the whistles he does and doesn't get.
Such was the case after Game 1 -- a 104-100 Warriors win -- when Harden asked for a "fair chance" after he didn't receive a number of calls when a Warriors defender was in his "landing zone." Of course, the main criticism of Harden is that he hunts for fouls, and his "landing zone" often changes depending on if he is aiming to get three free throws or is actually trying to knock down the shot.
The criticism of Harden has led many to claim the 2018 NBA MVP is "cheating the game" by trying to game the system.
But Kevin Durant, who played with Harden as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, doesn't see it that way.
"He's always been clever at getting into the paint and using his strength to get guys off," Durant said Tuesday. "It's, more so than anything, putting pressure on the defense. I think that's what he's always been doing."
When asked if Harden's style of play is an issue for the game, in that it gives him an edge, Durant offered an emphatic no.
"No, I wouldn't say that he has an advantage," Durant said. "I think everyone, once they get into the lane, they use little tricks to try and get they shots off. I don't think he's any different. He may bump guys off going to the rim, but everybody does that. So, I wouldn't say that he's found a way to cheat the rules, I wouldn't say that. It's just that he has his style of play and it might not be what everybody likes to see, but it's been effective and I don't think he's been cheating the game.
"I think he plays inside the game, plays within the rules of the game. I mean s--t happens. Referees aren't going to be perfect all game, just like players aren't. So I think, more so than just the talk of the officiating, it should be about how great all these players are on the court, how they uniquely bring something different to the table."
Despite his call for a "fair chance" after Game 1, Harden is unlikely to get the benefit of the whistle in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
While veteran referee Scott Foster is known as a visiting team's official, he has his own history with Harden and Chris Paul, and he is unlikely to be manipulated by Harden's antics.
Guess Harden will just have to outplay Durant if he wants to even the series.