Revisiting James Harden at point guard

Over the weekend, Daryl Morey called Eric Gordon “the perfect complement to James Harden.”  Then, in an interview released today with Adrian Wojnarowski, Mike D’Antoni said about Harden:

I think he’s at the point where I think we can move him over.  Now I don’t know yet, and we’ll experiment, we’ll talk about it, does he bring the ball up every time, does that wear him out?  Does he do it a couple quarters?  We have to figure out exactly his rhythm of the game…He averaged 7 or 8 assists last year, I’d love to see 12 or 13.  I’d love to see where he starts the offense, and the ball gets back to him, but after the ball has moved around two or three times.

As you all know, I’ve been writing since last season about the prospect of making James Harden the full-time point guard of this team.  To respond to the inquiries of many of you on Twitter: the significance in a positional change for Harden is not about Harden himself, but rather about who he plays beside and about the offense as a whole.  The distinction as to whether Harden is the actual point guard or just serving as one is not of relevance – he’ll function roughly the same within the offense.  But if he’s bringing the ball up too, it frees the team to start an actual shooting guard beside him, like Eric Gordon, rather than someone who can just passably hit open 3’s, like Patrick Beverley.  It makes the offense that much more dangerous. [read more…]






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Jan 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon (10) signals against the Los Angeles Lakers during the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as it became clear that Dwight Howard would no longer be a part of their future, sometime back mid-season, the Houston Rockets’ plan had been to pair Al Horford and Kevin Durant together using the expected $46 million of cap space they would have had available to them this summer.  After suffering the grave indignity of not even being granted a meeting by Durant, Houston quickly moved to Plan B, securing meetings with Horford and swingman Kent Bazemore.  Then, after being shunned by those Hawks, they came to terms with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.

With the signings, the Rockets are improved.  They’ll have a top-5 offense.  (They were 7th last year featuring a lineup that included essentially just James Harden).  But at a thematic level, the predictable outcome represents the difficulty inherent to attempting to build a team through free agency.  By its very nature, free agency is a crap shoot.  Each summer, there are only so many free agents, most of whom typically stay with the same team; and in a summer like this one, most everyone in the league has cap space.  Those aren’t exactly optimal market conditions for a buyer.  A popular outcry among Rockets fans is that “no star player wants to come play in Houston, with Harden [and Howard].”  While that may be the case, that it hasn’t happened doesn’t make the statement necessarily true – it just seems that way because the Rockets always put themselves in a position to try each summer.  And just by the sheer odds, they are likely to strike out each time, as would any other team.  Dwight Howard was the exception, not the rule.

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Farewell, Dwight Howard

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The Dwight Howard era in Houston has ended.  A marriage that began with so much hope and promise dwindled away towards Friday evening’s almost anticlimactic divorce.  In three seasons with the Rockets, Howard appeared in 183 games, averaging 16 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots per game, shooting 60% overall from the floor.  In the playoffs, those averages increased to 17.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocked shots per game.

This ending has seemed inevitable for some time.  As I’ve been writing for some months now, from a basketball standpoint, it was time to move onthe fit was just not right.  But for everything to have deteriorated so quickly still is quite the shock.  I theorized just last summer, looking ahead to today, that the challenge in this present moment would not pertain to the question of whether Houston was better with Howard, but whether they could stomach the number of years on the deal it would take to bring him back for the one or two remaining superstar years they still would need from him to contend.  That ended up not even being a decision that needed to be made.

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If you aren’t following me already on Twitter, why not?  Everything here will have already been said on there, but in short and sweet bursts of 140-character goodness, and in real-time, as the thoughts arrive into my head.  I don’t even know why I’m writing this now except that we are closing in on the biggest time window in the NBA season, and the Houston Rockets have a bag of $46 million to hand over to someone, and it doesn’t quite seem clear if anyone is willing to take it.

We learned this afternoon that they have secured a meeting tomorrow with forward Al Horford, and just moments ago that they might not yet be completely out of the picture on guard Mike Conley.  Stepping back, examining the ensuing celebration, (of which I was a large part of), its saddening that victory this year represents just even getting a face to face.  Oh Houston, how low we have fallen.

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Despite earlier reports that they weren’t at all even in the running, a recent Y! report listed Houston as one of several hopefuls who could still potentially get a meeting with Durant.  And James Harden says he’ll be trying.  So who knows at this point?  I still think while they didn’t break the top tier of meetings (Golden State and San Antonio), Durant gives the Rockets a chance to make their pitch, just as a token to James Harden.  One could argue Durant would let Harden know if his team were completely out of the running, just so that they don’t sit around wasting valuable time.

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