Hardwood and Hollywood

Houston? You still have a problem with James Harden

James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets just before the season when the Oklahoma City Thunder realized they could not sign him long-term

My world was rocked, pre-Hurricane Sandy, when I read that the unlikely deal that could send James Harden to the Houston Rockets had actually come to fruition. Oklahoma City Thunder fans, I feel for you. Do know that this budding star had to consider his career above everything else. You can’t maximize your potential by being the NBA’s best “B-Team Captain.” Harden is now a player with Team USA credentials (thanks to an unfortunate injury to Derrick Rose) and wants to be the featured player on his own team.

Harden is that good. His style-of-play is attractive and reminds me of a certain has-been hoop star formerly referred to as Agent Zero, however, without being an unstable disruptor. In any case, Harden wasn’t going to get the maximum offer from Oklahoma City per his request; Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook even agreed to take a little less, but Harden refused to acquiesce. A deal was not going to be made. It’s so unfortunate that it has to always come down to the ubiquitous “almighty dollar.”

The Oklahoma City trio is no more. Surely that team was the favorite to come out of the West this season and shocking isn’t even the word. Actually, shocking is the exact word. I imagine your average Thunder fan turning on their respective televisions, only to find – on every channel mind you – the story of James Harden’s departure:

INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

A TV remote hits the floor as the eyes of a rabid THUNDER FAN are locked on the screen. A graphic pulls up that reads: James Harden Traded to the Houston Rockets.

THUNDER FAN
Harden? James?

Fade to Black.

With the Thunder getting back Jeremy Lamb, the rookie out of The University of Connecticut and Kevin Martin, a proven scorer with the Sacramento Kings and Houston (Martin’s two previous clubs), the production will be ever-present , no doubt. The personality and the energy of the OKC Thunder trio that was (Durant, Westbrook, and Harden) will be sorely missed and it could take Thunder fans a moment to adjust to their team’s new (and a wee staler) identity.

Things in New York, as of this moment (Monday, 10.29.12), are terribly windy. A storm that won’t answer to the name “Sandy” is upon us; when she’s coming, we’re not too sure.  In Houston, I’d say Rockets fans and the like face the same dilemma. Not the potential menace referred to as Sandy, but a different type of rabble-rouser. James Harden and Jeremy Lin will play together constructively, but I just don’t see how effective they can be over the entire season. These two have humble spirits and a mutual respect for each other (no-brainer), but Houston will still be lacking in other areas. Harden took more money to be on a team that will have a much higher hill to climb in regards to making it to the NBA’s postseason. I admire the gall of Harden and his wanting to successfully run his own team. He does know that building a championship team in Houston will take a few years or many more, right? The acquisition of Harden and Lin is just one small, itsy-bitsy step.

Houston’s current roster is chock full of holes. If Yao Ming were still in the equation, I’d be singing a different tune, but that is simply not the case. Gone, but not forgotten is Yao. The rather large hole left by Yao Ming has yet to be filled. The addition of Cole Aldrich from this trade could do a little, but it won’t be enough to fill those shoes. Other potential playmakers for the Rockets: rookie and NCAA National Champion Terrence Jones out of Kentucky, Carlos Delfino, maybe Omer Asik, Marcus Morris, and sometimes Daequan Cook. Harden has taken more than a few steps back (about eight, actually) and going forward he must exercise poise, patience, and responsibility. Otherwise, Houston might (still) have a problem, and as we are all fully aware, problems never cease to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune moment.

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Marcus Middleton

Born, but not raised, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, this slender, 6"2 hoops writer has been dedicated to the game for as long as he can remember (and his memory serves him well). Not just the game itself, but how the image of the league (and of course, the players) is perceived by both the fans and the haters breathes life into his prose. There's much to say about how the game is perceived today as opposed to the good ol' days when egos and narcissistic, megalomaniacal behavior were the exception rather than the rule.

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