The Daily Blast – April 2, 2013

Harden Week Rolls On – As mentioned in yesterday’s Blast, Hickory-High is celebrating Harden Week. What follows is a pu-pu platter of their offerings on the Rockets bearded (but currently de-activated) savior. First, Kyle Soppe with the numbers:

If you look at the data, James Harden is the only player to have a direct relationship between points scored and team success. The Rockets probability of winning is tied to the scoring output of The Beard, making his ability to put points on the board as “valuable” as any elite scorer in the NBA.

Also, read this and consider your mind blown:

Over his last 12 games (as of March 26), Harden is averaging 25.8 points and has not attempted 20+ field goals once. J.R. Smith, off the bench mind you, is averaging 22.4 points and has attempted 20+ shots five times in his last 12 games.

Next up, poet Kris Fenrich goes freeform on James. Grab your beret and bongos. Here’s how it starts:

Styles stumbling stoically with
Purpose: A
Whistle: A
Trip to the line
James signs James on a line to
Arizona State to
Herb Sendek to
Shoot free throws and threes

And Jim Cavan explains one of Harden’s deadliest weapons. Not the Euro-step. Not the three. Not the way he invites hacks on the way to the rim. He can assassinate you with the step-back J:

Done correctly, it provides air space where none existed a split second before, and is virtually impossible to defend. Reason being that it’s much easier to stay with a defender laterally – or even going towards the rim – than it is to guess the precise moment at which he’s going to reverse direction completely, and back out of your sphere of influence altogether. It’s a mind game within a mind game, and James Harden might very well be the best at it.

Let’s hope that foot heals up real soon.

Amazing RaceThe Point Forward has the skinny on the race for the bottom of the West’s playoff bracket, and the analysis begins with this:

Quickly, the last month has seen four major developments in the chase for the No. 8 seed.

First, the Rockets, as anticipated, rode a significantly easier schedule to build a 2½-game lead over the Jazz and Lakers, all but securing their spot in the postseason.

I’m paranoid, so please note the words “all but” in that quote. Also, it points out that the season finale against the Lakers could be anti-climactic:

Houston is squarely in the No. 7 slot. If that continues, what motivation do the Rockets have to play their key players — including James Harden, who is dealing with a foot injury — during their regular-season finale against the Lakers?

I can tell you one motivation: earning the gratitude of millions of good, honest, wholesome Laker haters by knocking L.A. out of the playoff picture if the Lakers need that game. C’mon McHale. I know you still bleed Celtic green…

Free Agency – Amin Elhassan (ESPN Insider) ranks the top 30 FA’s in the coming offseason. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Josh Smith are ranked 1,2 and 3, and Howard and Paul are the only two players Elhassan justifies giving a max contract to. He advocates giving about $14 million per year to J Smoove:

Smith represents a dilemma. On one hand, he offers a unique skill set in terms of being an elite defender (one of only six players in the league averaging at least 1.0 block, 1.0 steal and a defensive rebound percentage of 20 or higher) who also fits perfectly alongside Al Horford in Atlanta’s frontcourt. On the other hand, he has a penchant for mood swings and aspirations that extend beyond his effective abilities. Smith is incredibly efficient around the rim, but takes a lot of low-efficiency shots from the perimeter; moreover, he also tends to be a ball-stopper, opting for isolation matchups on the perimeter.

It’s worth noting after the last two games featuing Greg Smith and Asik playing together down low that the Rockets don’t need a stretch 4 to win. Greg Smith is currently making a great argument that if Josh Smith doesn’t need to improve his jump shot to fit in Houston; he just needs to shoot less. Of course, the same could be said of his fit in Atlanta, and he’s still jacking those long twos.

Speaking of Long Twos – Omer Asik took and nailed one last night with the shot clock running down, and I almost had a heart attack. McHale when asked after the game if he thought it was a good shot: “I was thinking the clock was running down and O is going to go. He made it and it was a good shot for him. I mean, he does actually work on that shot.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Omer Asik, your 2013 Most Improved Player. Or else.

Got any sweet links or suggestions? Email them to [email protected] or message John Eby on Twitter @EbyNews.


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