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In the third quarter of Tuesday's 91-88 loss against Indiana, Oklahoma City rookie James Harden dribbled into the frontcourt and was swarmed by Pacers hopefuls Trey Johnson and Anthony Smith, getting the ball ripped away and losing possession.

Harden immediately threw himself to the floor and atoned for his mistake, tying up Johnson and then winning the ensuing jump ball. It's that attitude and hustle that landed him in Oklahoma City, endearing him to GM Sam Presti and his front office staff.

The 20-year-old Harden is a fighter, making him the perfect fit for a team trying to carve out an identity as an intense, defense-oriented outfit that will fight you for every inch.

Diving on the floor for a loose ball is nothing alien in a summer league setting, but the guys typically doing it are chasing contracts and hoping to catch somebody's eye. Harden, who scored 19 points in his first career start for the Thunder , is virtually assured a spot in Scott Brooks' rotation. He didn't need to risk a floor burn, but felt he couldn't afford not to.

"That's just about competing, playing hard and trying to win," Harden said. "I lost the ball, but got it back for us. I just want to win. I'm not setting any personal goals. Just winning."

Offensively, Harden displayed his versatility by working at the point guard spot when Russell Westbrook was out of the game, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for the second straight day and tied for the team lead in rebounds with five.

About the only thing he failed to do was deliver on a game-tying 3-point attempt that summer league coach Brian Keefe drew up for him in the final seconds.

"The play was executed perfectly, and I thought it was going down when I shot. I shot it straight, but just a little short," said Harden. "Those are shots I have to make."


In case you needed any clarification on what Thunder rookie center Byron "B.J." Mullens wants to be known as, the rookie has left no room for error.

"I wanted to be known as Byron in college because I was making the next step of my life, but everybody, friends and coaches, just knew me as B.J. so it didn't catch on," said Mullens, the 24th pick in this past June's draft out of Ohio State. "I don't know, maybe they just forgot, or maybe they had just gotten used to the name they've always called me. Now I can try again. Another new step, new transition, and I'd like to be known as Byron."

Mullens is averaging 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds through the first two games.


Shaun Livingston was held out of the Thunder's contest against Indiana, not even dressing out. Thunder sources expect OKC summer league veterans Russell Westbrook and D.J. White to receive similar treatment over the next couple of days. ... Former Thunder center Robert Swift is part of the Celtics' entry, starting at center in both of their games thus far. He's averaged 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in just over 20 minutes.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: July 10, 2009


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