James Harden Is A Foundational Player

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has to be walking around with that “I told you so,” grin tonight.

The Houston Rockets opened the season on the road against the Detroit Pistons, and James Harden was ready to play. Harden had signed his monster five-year, $80 million contract extension just hours before the game.

“James Harden is a player we can build around, and continue to improve the team around his skills,” Morey said. “He’s an elite offensive player, a complete player. He can pass, shoot, attack the basket. Even though he’s a gold medalist, an Olympian and made the Finals, I still think he’s an underrated player. He’s absolutely someone who, when they see him step into the role of a star for the Houston Rockets, people are going to realize just how good he is.”

It’s a feeling many of us will never have, but it’s safe to assume $80 million on paper makes you feel really good.

So good, that Harden decided to prove all his doubters wrong in one night.

“He’s just a sixth man,” some said.

“He’s not worth $80 million!” others said.

Harden dominated the game from start to finish, showing he doesn’t need Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook casting a shadow in his path.

Harden finished with 37 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block.

According to ESPN State & Info, Harden is the first player in NBA history to have at least 30 points, and 12 assists, in his first game with a new team. Harden set career-highs tonight in minutes played, as well as assists, and field goals made.

It’s just one game, and Harden certainly will not average 37 points on a nightly basis, but if leadership was ever a doubt, he squashed that notion to a pulp.

Morey called Harden a “foundational” player, anyone dare to disagree?

Rockets Acquire James Harden

The Houston Rockets have traded Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and future draft picks for James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder parted ways with Harden after he declined a reported 4 year $53-54 million dollar contract extension from the Thunder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

The draft picks headed to the Thunder from the Rockets include two 2013 first-round picks (via Dallas and Toronto) as well as one 2013 second-round pick (via Charlotte).

The Rockets will also receive Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward in the trade.

Unlike past scenarios where significant players have stretched the extension story along, the Thunder wasted no time acquiring a talented scorer in Martin, and a future scorer in Lamb. Martin will likely be a rental, while Lamb may be the perfect complement player depending on his progression.

The Rockets on the other hand were desperately looking for a potential all-star caliber player that they now receive with Harden. The backcourt dynamic now bursts with intrigue, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden team up for the Rockets.

General Manager Daryl Morey has been often praised for his savvy techniques and number conscious style, but has received his fair share of criticism as well. When will he land a star? When will he leave the little fish, and go for the big one?

James Harden is by far Morey’s big splash move, and he will relentlessly continue adding to this young Rockets team. The campaign motto this season is it’s “A New Age.” The Rockets are certainly living by that motto, and finally make a move that will likely create some stability for the future.

Wojnarowski also reports that the Rockets will sign Harden to a max extension deal by Wednesday’s deadline, that will range from four or five years, at $60 million.

It’s a bold move by the organization that’s moving forward in a big way.

Omer Asik Thrives With Rockets

The Rockets have completely revamped the roster, and while the year promises to bring excitement, the challenges this young team will face will require patience. The preseason so far has shown the ups and downs each player faces, and what they will need to address as the season progresses.

As Daryl Morey continues his quest for a franchise player, the Rockets find themselves in search for stability. The presumed starting lineup will feature a backcourt of Jeremy Lin, and Kevin Martin, while Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, and Omer Asik round out the starting five.

Omer Asik signed a three year 25 million dollar contract with the Rockets which left many wondering if the team overpaid for the center. The term “poison pill” swept the basketball nation by storm after general manager Daryl Morey executed a savvy method earlier on Jeremy Lin. The “poison pill” would have the Rockets pay Asik 14.9 million in 2015, a contract that would be backlogged, making the investment difficult for the Chicago Bulls to swallow.

So far the preseason has proven to many Rockets fans that not only is Asik’s label as an above average defensive center true, but that his dedication after receiving a lucrative contract doesn’t need to be questioned.

In six preseason games played, Asik has racked up 69 rebounds, 25 of them being offensive. The Turkish center has shown his relentlessness on the boards each game, bringing a mixture of youth and height at the center position that the team has not had in years.

Asik’s ability to read plays on the defensive end is stellar. He moves his feet strategically, and most importantly realizes what he’s capable of doing. Asik has shown that he rarely takes risks that he knows he can’t handle. For a 255 pound center, Asik is able to cover the pick and roll, and stretch his defense out to the perimeter.

The forward heavy team is so thin at the five, that Asik’s value is irreplaceable. The Rockets do have Donatas Motiejunas the seven-foot rookie from Lithuania, but his lack of experience has shown this preseason. Greg Smith is another big man the Rockets are hoping to cultivate, but as they wait, Asik’s experience becomes all the more important.

Asik’s ceiling as an offensive player may not be high, but for the Rockets his defensive presence will help a backcourt of Lin, and Martin who aren’t traditionally known for defense. It will be interesting to see Asik transition into a starters role. He played behind the talented Joakim Noah in Chicago, but in Houston he is the man in the paint. Asik’s main challenges will be pacing himself, and staying out of foul trouble, something so many centers struggle with.

Asik is averaging 8 points, 1 steal, and 11.5 rebounds per game.

The pill on Asik was labeled “poison,” but for the Rockets it’s a prescription that they haven’t taken in years.