By: Rahat Huq
- As I warned yesterday morning, there would be many in the media heralding Sunday's thorough dismantling of the Thunder as a victory for Russell Westbrook in the MVP race, a lazy and nonsensical conclusion derived from an odd set of values in the context of team sports. I don't feel like compiling the examples, but if you're reading this, then you've probably seen them already on Twitter. At this point, the Harden and Westbrook camps have cemented, and anyone who was inclined to vote for one or the other will only be seeking to reaffirm their beliefs. Lebron and Kawhi have safely faded, and I think anyone who was leaning towards either of those two players would probably find Harden's case more meritorious. Do you value winning or do you derive immense fascination from arbitrary constructs? Ooh, look! A round number! It's fascinating to note that almost all former players back Westbrook's candidacy.
- The only thing that can change this race is if Harden sits and the Rockets start losing, while Westbrook keeps racking up the uncontested rebounds. This presents a dilemma. The Rockets have stated affirmatively that they will not rest players. D'Antoni said they don't do it; Beverley was much harsher, calling it a disgrace. But is sitting an ailing Harden really "resting him?" I've made clear that I'm as much about the MVP as anyone here. But that wrist that is being wrapped tightly in ice after every game needs to heal before the postseason begins. Can we convince James to at least take the night off in Phoenix or Minnesota? He knows his award is on the line. This is a man acutely aware of his place in the NBA pecking order, boldly proclaiming two years ago that he was the best basketball player in the world. He can validate that claim this year. I maintain that I don't think he lets them sit him.
- I'm inclined towards paranoia and thus it follows that I've been wondering lately how the league will react to Houston's success this season and what Daryl Morey can do to maintain his team's competitive advantage. Already, the league had begun trending away from midrange shots, but this year, the Rockets have become a hyperbolization of their own philosophy, in the midst of a season when 40 three-point attempts in a game is the norm. While they likely won't win the title, will other teams follow suit seeing the wild success the Rockets have enjoyed despite having only one superstar and a roster widely considered unexceptional [prior to the season, back when Oklahoma City was considered to have the better roster]? Smart teams will figure out you can overcome a lot of deficiencies when cranking up the variance. But while you can shoot a lot of threes, you need good shooters, you need a great passer, and you need a coach who can put those shooters in a position to succeed. The Rockets, for their part, having been reaffirmed in their convictions, need to ensure that going forward, the roster is littered with good shooting for the remainder of the James Harden era. I mean, after seeing the impact Ryan Anderson has on this offense, can you believe the Rockets had Terrence Jones manning the position a priori for years? Like, can you believe that? Like, its worked out so brilliantly that you almost can't believe how bad things were before. And to that end, Daryl Morey needs to ensure that there is a 'Ryan Anderson' on the floor for as much of the season as possible for these next 5-6 years or whatever of James Harden's prime. I like what I've seen from Kyle Wiltjer in the six or seven minutes he's played this season because uh, he's tall, white, and can shoot, so naturally he's the heir apparent. But in all seriousness, get that kid on some sort of high caloric nutritional plan - I don't even care if its pure fat with no functional muscle mass, we need to put some meat on those bones before next season.
- Can Zhou Qi shoot an NBA three pointer?
- I have tried to get this post's word count to 700, and I've succeeded, because round numbers.