James Harden talking about crossing up and staring down Wesley Johnson might be as disrespectful as the cross-up/staredown

James Harden transmuted Wesley Johnson’s ankles into dual saucers of condensed milk on Wednesday night, stopping the collective basketball-watching world dead in its tracks and sending the basketball-writing world rushing to our thesauruses in search of synonyms for “disrespectful.” But what did the All-Star ankle assassin himself have to say about his profane, aweless, cheeky, disgracious, impudent, out-of-line, saucy and unfilial dribble-destruction after the Houston Rockets’ 105-92 win over the Los Angeles Clippers? (Synonyms are dope.)

As it turns out, Harden was thinking the same sort of thing that Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney was. Rob wrote Thursday morning, “Harden seems almost taken aback at one point at what he had done,” and according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Harden said Wednesday night that he had actually sort of confounded himself:

“I was trying to figure out what he was doing,” Harden said. “I was looking at him and he was looking at me. I was figuring out what he was doing, what he was going to say. I was going to shoot it. I was trying to figure out what was going on.”

“I was confused,” Harden continued, according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz. “Like. did the ref call side out of bounds?”

James Harden is sorry, but he’s just thinking of the right words to say. (Screencap via Whitney Medworth of SB Nation)

Nope! It was just that you crumpled a pretty good NBA defender into a tidy bit of recycling to a degree that doesn’t typically happen, eliciting a “whoooooa” from the home team’s fans and kind of stunning everyone into stasis. The game was still on, though.

“And then I just shot it,” Harden said with a slight shrug, a head shake and a little laugh. “I don’t know.”

“I’ve been in my bag all year,” Harden told ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez on the court after the game. “It was one of those moves where I had to make him dance a little bit, and I just made the shot.”

Personally, I suspect that Harden did know, and that those extra two beats during which he stared at the gelatinous pile that was once his defender, took one hand off the ball, spun it with the other, and waited for a valiant charge by Milos Teodosic before shooting was the product not of surprise, but of wanting to turn a move into A Moment. And that is OK! When you put a quality NBA defender into a trash compactor to this degree, you are within your rights to stunt to whatever degree you see fit … provided you make the shot.

He made the shot. Thus endeth the lesson.

“Of course, it was crazy,” teammate Eric Gordon said after the game. “You don’t see things like that all the time. I definitely laughed. Everybody is going to be talking about that for a while.”

And as we do, hopefully we will spare a thought for what the Beard did after what he did, because every sundae deserves a cherry on top.

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Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@oath.com or follow him on Twitter!