James Harden and Andre Iguodala became good friends this summer on the U.S. Olympic team.
They are on new teams this season and Iguodala will likely be tasked with trying to slow down the league's leading scorer Wednesday night when his Denver Nuggets visit Harden's Houston Rockets.
Harden and Iguodala bonded during the London Games, with neither seeing much action for coach Mike Krzyzewski's gold medal-winning team.
"We had a great summer together and one of my good friends, excited to play against him," Harden said. "Obviously he's on a new team as well."
Now they will meet as starters for the first time. Iguodala will put his reputation as one of the league's best defenders on the line against the red-hot Harden, averaging 35.3 points.
"He does similar to the things I can do as far as making plays for his team, kind of an all-around player," Harden said. "It's going to be a tough matchup for me but this is what the NBA is all about."
Iguodala isn't expected to shoulder as much of the scoring load in his transition with Denver (1-3), although his offensive numbers have been on the upswing. The veteran totaled 20 points on 8-of-23 shooting in his first two games with the Nuggets before scoring 39 over his next two.
He led six Nuggets in double figures with 17 points and added 10 rebounds in Tuesday's home opener, a 109-97 victory over Detroit.
"He was a presence everywhere, on every part of the court," forward Danilo Gallinari said. "He's great for us when he plays like that."
Iguodala is well aware of how his friend has fared with the new-look Rockets (2-1).
"James Harden has started off well," Iguodala said. "Jeremy Lin is playing well."
As a reserve with Oklahoma City, Harden averaged 12.0 points on 45.5 percent shooting in four games - all Thunder wins - against Philadelphia teams with Iguodala in the lineup.
Harden has become one of the biggest stories in the NBA with his spectacular scoring output after being traded. His worst effort was his 24 points in Saturday's 95-85 overtime loss to Portland in the Rockets' home opener.
Houston coach Kevin McHale spent part of Tuesday's practice installing new offensive sets since he hasn't had much time to implement his new star into the Rockets' system.
"We're going to go a different way because his talent dictates that but also we have to get him also moving towards us so we have a flow, a combination of both," McHale said.
Both teams have excelled on the glass. Denver has outrebounded three of its first four foes, posting a 52-35 advantage Tuesday, and Houston has outrebounded every opponent.
The Nuggets didn't see Lin last season when the point guard enjoyed his breakout stretch with New York. Lin, averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 assists, is also looking forward to the matchup between Harden and Iguodala, although he feels it won't be decisive.
"He's a heckuva defensive player so he's probably going to be guarding our heckuva offensive player, so that'll be exciting but at the end of the day it's a team thing," Lin said.
The Associated Press News Service
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