The Daily Blast – April 3, 2013

Voluminous Beardage – Harden Week continues at Hickory-High, and it continues to be the Amazon River of James Harden fact and opinion.

First off, our own Forrest Walker chronicles the emotional journey of Houston fans from the fall of Yao to the messianic arrival of James.

Houston had been spoiled. We’d seen the glow of the Olajuwon era give way to a decade of Yao Ming. We were treated to a win streak that’s only just been surpassed. And we were spoiled by Daryl Morey, who made us think brilliance was an everyday occurrence. When a group of role players pushed the Lakers to the brink, we knew that the winner of that series would win it all. And they did. But we thought it would be the guys in red. All we could remember was a team that excelled despite. Everything. We remembered that a sixth seed once won it all. And as the red turned to gray for three years, the memories turned it all to bitter ash.

This is the narrative equivalent of “I’m afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.” So you know things are about to get better:

James Harden came into our lives, and he changed our expectations. His team is shattering the idea that you have to fail first. His team is ripping off the win totals strung around his neck at the start of the year. And his city is believing, now, that a playoff appearance may not be enough. Only he could make us ask for a second round series in a rebuilding year. We’re unreasonable and we expect too much from the team, and we love Harden for letting us do it. James Harden’s already done all he has to; he reminds us of greatness.

True. True. To put it another way–I own the replica jerseys of two players: Hakeem Olajuwon and James Harden.

Now, from the perspective of OKC fans, as voiced by Royce Young, Harden’s success in Houston evokes far different emotions:

The day Harden was traded still remains one of the most emotional days in Thunder history, and really was the official wake-up call to OKC fans that this pro sports thing is sometimes really ugly. Harden spent three months telling the fanbase how much he loved them, how much he loved the team and the city. He talked about taking less money, about sacrificing to stay. We should’ve known better though. That’s not the way it works. But we thought it was different here.

The Thunder lost a deal, but it wasn’t the Harden trade. They lost the CBA negotiations that made it financially suicidal to keep four max players on your roster (unless you are the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks and money isn’t an issue).

Lastly, Kris Fenrich continues his poetic illustration of James Harden with 22nd Century Original–James Harden. Here’s your free sample:

So shrewd and conniving
Suckering refs and opponents into contact and committing fouls in exchange for free
(Did you say contracts?)
I said contact, but contracts too
Although there’s no bamboozling when money’s on the line (“Lies!”)

As a general rule, it’s always good to have a bamboozler on your side.

Carlos Delfino: Relevant: When I started reading Zach Lowe’s column on this seasons surprisingly relevant players–the Luke Walton All-Stars–the first thing I thought was “I wonder of Delfino will be on here.” Sure enough:

Houston signing Delfino to a two-year, $6 million deal7 barely registered, even though Delfino is a heady player with a proven 3-point stroke. Age had sapped Delfino of quickness toward the end of his time in Milwaukee, making it difficult for him to defend both wing positions seamlessly — once a key chunk of his value. Houston appeared to be adding a nice spot-up shooter, good locker-room guy, and bit player to a team overcrowded with tweener power forward types.

Nope. Delfino is logging a solid 25 minutes per game as both a backup wing player and a key part of Houston’s prolific small-ball lineups.

Also, Cabeza is on pace to make history:

But he’s still shooting a ton — a whopping 8.9 3s per 36 minutes. That would be the largest figure ever for any player who logged at least 1,500 minutes in a season.

Free Greg Smith? – Matt Stephens at the Dream Shake makes the argument that Smith should start at PF for the rest of the season (he started the past two games):

With these two performances, the 22-year-old Smith proved he is every bit as deserving to start the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs as Motiejunas, and he gives this team the best chance to win in the short-term. Granted it’s a small sample size, but he’s averaged 10.5 points, 6 rebounds and 3.0 fouls on 53% shooting in 25.5 minutes compared to D-Mo’s 9.3 points, 3.4 boards and 3.1 fouls on 46% shooting in 21.2 minutes in his 14 starts.

Aside from just basic stats, Smith is clearly just a better defender at the 4 spot than Motiejunas has been. While he has looked out of sync defensively at times at center this year, it’s hard to step in and take over with Asik on the bench, because the Turk covers so much space on that end and makes up for so many other guys’ deficiencies.

Also, as Stephens points out, D-Mo is in the lineup largely to spread the floor, but he’s been shooting very poorly lately. I tend to believe that shooting averages itself out over time, so lets hope Motiejunas can light up Sacramento tonight.

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