More on this chart later

More on this chart later

I don’t think I’ve exactly concealed my feelings for James Harden these past few years. Nevertheless, just in case people are in doubt, I don’t particularly like his brand of basketball and what it represents (note, this has nothing to do with Harden himself). Now that the critical-of-Harden bandwagon is growing a bit, I think it’s my time to reassert myself on this train. But first, a long digression about the state of the NBA.

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in essays

Are the Houston Rockets a terrible team that puts it together sometimes, or a great team that can’t seem to figure it out? Tonight’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t answer that question. In fact, after watching two wholly disparate halves, this quandary is more pressing and frustrating than ever. The Rockets fell 21 points behind the Blazers in the first half, looking like a complete laughingstock in the process. The ability to storm back to win by 14 is amazing, but also more than a little confusing and frustrating.

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in game coverage

Howard and Harden as the “wrong” superstars

Andrew Sharp:

All of Morey’s stockpiling of assets and compulsive pick shuffling didland him two superstars. He just landed the wrong ones. Howard and Harden are good players, but terrible leaders, and at this point they don’t even like each other. It’s why the team has gone from title contender to playoff hopeful, and why Chris Bosh ultimately refused to chase another ring in Houston after Morey moved heaven and earth (and Chandler Parsons) to sign him in 2014. Still, Morey was close. Even I bought into the Rockets with Ty Lawson. It just didn’t work, and looking back, a lot of this comes back to landing the only two superstars in the league that nobody else wants to play with.

This is a point I’ve seen made in other corners of the internet and one I’ve tossed around before on these pages or on the podcast, in passing.  It’s relevant in light of the broader discussions we had six or seven years ago when this blog was in its infancy, as was Morey’s masterplan.  Everything has, in a way, come full circle, with the answers to thematic questions possibly in front of our eyes.  As some more loyal readers may remember, I advocated strongly in favor of tanking, asserting that greatness could not be achieved through mediocrity.  To my dismay, Morey avoided that route (possibly at the demands of Alexander, as evidence suggests), but somehow still got somewhere near the very top, in his own way.  He was a genius; he had done it!  He had built a contender without having to tank.

But now, maybe, we’re seeing why that was possible, as some are suggesting.  When you take shortcuts, it bites you in the end.  The theory goes now that the Thunder might not have been as willing to let Harden go had he fit into their culture (though I’d imagine there is some degree of revisionism in play there).  You were able to get Harden because he was flawed, and same with Howard.  The assertion, from this reasoning, is that the Rockets only have these two players because they are each inherently flawed.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have been available to begin with.  That would mean then, in validation of the original premise, that the only way to build a team is through the draft, because that is the only way to acquire premiere talent in an unflawed state.

This is all a convenient reaction, however, to this season.  Unfortunately, it appears likely that such thinking will hold true.  But if they hire a disciplinarian, or something suddenly clicks for Harden from within, it would dispel the aforementioned notions.  As I’ve been writing now all season, that’s the only hope.






in musings

Sometimes the best games bring you the worst losses. As David Mitchell tells us, “I really hope my team wins, so it will turn out later, I’m enjoying myself now.” As Jason Terry’s last hurrah left his hands, as the shot arced toward the rim, we didn’t know if it was an awful loss or a great win. In that moment, before it went in and back out again, handing the Utah Jazz the 8th seed and the tiebreaker, it was an exhausting, exciting, and most of all close game. The good and bad, like the score, were teetering on the knife’s edge.

In the end, the game tipped over onto the bad side and fell hard.

But, hey, at least they tried.

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in game coverage

From Sam Amick’s piece today:

While it’s true that Howard never asked for a trade leading up to the deadline, the notion that his always-aggressive agent, Dan Fegan, wasn’t part of the process is about as believable as the notion of the Rockets winning it all this season. A message was being sent to the rest of the league in the days leading up to the deadline, with teams like Milwaukee, Charlotte and Atlanta learning firsthand that Howard’s top-dollar demands are very real. The fact that Howard was known to be seriously considering a change in representation at the time, meanwhile, only complicated an already-tricky situation.

Yet if Howard truly wanted out of Houston, he could have told those teams that he would pick up the player option for next season and push his free agency back to the summer of 2018. Instead, he stayed and the possibility of this partnership surviving thus remained.

The entire piece was about Howard’s uncertain future in Houston, but the interesting tidbit above pertains to Fegan.  It’s news to me that Howard was “seriously considering a change in representation”; I personally have written at lengths about the curious nature of the agent-athlete relationship, one which sometimes seems to push the bounds of fiduciary responsibility.  Exhibit A was Fegan’s insistence on steering Howard to the Mavs and Exhibit B, the odd agreement regarding Chandler Parsons: it didn’t benefit Howard at all when Fegan used him as leverage to secure a favorable scenario for a different client.

Now it seems Fegan was intent on shopping Howard to a destination where his bird rights would remain intact.  But I disagree with Amick on the conclusion.  That Howard didn’t agree to pick up his option doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t want out of Houston.  He could want out of Houston, but prefer to weigh all of his options in the summer, and go to the destination of his choice, rather than settle for staying with whoever was willing to make a trade.

Dwight Howard’s free agency was going to be a major theme heading into next summer, but its been grossly complicated by Houston’s embarrassment of a season.  Why come back at a discount to a losing situation?






in musings

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