With the Houston Rockets coming to town Thursday, the Toronto Raptors are preparing for the Herculean task of slowing down James Harden, the current league scoring leader with a nearly unprecedented 39.5 points per game.
While this will be the first meeting of the season between the Raptors and Rockets, guard Fred VanVleet says he's spent plenty of time scouting the former league MVP, a man he compares to "an alien out there, one-on-one," according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
"I got League Pass, so I watch the games every night and James is always a draw," VanVleet said. "You try to learn and take stuff from him, and every player dreams of drawing fouls the way he does ... He's pretty special."
To that end, VanVleet's study sessions appear to be paying off. The fourth-year guard has increased his free-throw attempts from 1.8 per game last season to 4.6 this year. It's a huge improvement for the Wichita State product, although it's not quite on the level of Harden's 14.9 free throws per game.
And while there has been a negative response in some corners regarding Harden's heavy diet of foul shots - including one fan who had a humorous exchange with the bearded one on Wednesday - VanVleet defended the former MVP's style of play.
"No, because I'm a basketball player," he replied when asked if he understood why Harden's approach has proven so divisive. "I haven't met a basketball player that doesn't appreciate it. It's the casual people that watch the game or (are) tied into some fantasy of what they think the game is about."