Rockets Continue Winning Ways

The Houston Rockets committed 19 fouls and 16 turnovers tonight, a combination that leads most teams towards a loss. Instead James Harden decided to take the fourth quarter in the palm of his hands, and never looked back.

Harden scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, proving his capability to take the youngest team in the NBA on his back, and lead them to a huge road victory. The Rockets clawed their way to an 87-84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“When he’s playing downhill on you, he’s just a monster at that. He’s coming at you,” Houston coach Kevin McHale told the media. “It’s just so hard to defend. He’s got the side-step, Euro-step, driving into you. He’s so doggone strong. He’s really got strong hands. He mauls the ball through your armpit and finds a way to finish.”

The performance tonight by Harden serves a bigger purpose than just a regular season win. In this league it takes more than one superstar to win a championship. As Harden continues to prove himself as an individual, the superstar fraternity is watching keenly. Harden has made it clear he is working on bringing more talent to this Rockets team.

“I’ve been starting that recruiting process. One player is not going to win a championship. Nowadays you need two or maybe more, Harden said in a local radio interview. “We need more guys to come over here, so we can win. For right now we are going to stick with the players we have and try to run with that.’”

After obliterating the Chicago Bulls on Christmas night, the Rockets looked sluggish and cold in Minnesota. Harden wasn’t getting to the free throw line, and shots were not falling for the team that averages 106 points per game; tops in the NBA.

The Rockets entered tonight’s game with staggering offensive numbers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rockets tied the NBA record (with nine others) by winning three straight games, scoring 120 points, and winning each game by at least 22 points.

The Rockets have pushed the offensive pace to a new level, giving all five players on the court the opportunity to run on every possession.

A big piece to the success has been Omer Asik. The mammoth center crowding the paint has been a double-double machine. Asik pulled down 17 rebounds tonight, and 18 last night. In nearly 70 minutes of play, Asik has managed to pull down 35 rebounds.

The Rockets are now 16-12 and currently enjoying a five game winning streak.

Rockets Dominate Knicks 131-103

Jeremy Lin finally faced his former team the New York Knicks Friday night, and came out on the winning end of a high octane offensive game for the Houston Rockets.

While the “Linsanity” reunion was the headlining act, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons stole the spotlight early.

Parsons ended the night with a career-high 31 points, while adding 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on a night he won’t soon forget. Parsons surpassed his previous career-high of 25 points, by scoring 26 in the first half, while 18 of those points were scored in the first quarter.

Carmelo Anthony ended the night with 37 points, and also scored 18 in the first quarter.

The spotlight didn’t take long to shift, as Anthony and Parsons put on a show in front of 18,000 fans.

James Harden added 33 points, 9 assists, and went a perfect 16-16 at the free throw line. Harden’s career highs were 15 free throws made, and 17 free throws attempted.

Lin busted out of his slump by shooting 50% on the night, well above his 33% mark on the season. Lin chipped in 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists on a night where all eyes were on him.

The Rockets consistently kept pressure on the Knicks from the start, but broke free in the third quarter and found themselves leading by 21 points.

Omer Asik who has turned into the most consistent, and beneficial addition for the Rockets this year scored 18 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds. Expecting a double-double from Asik is now turning into the norm as fans in Houston are finally treated with a young mobile center that’s progressing well as a starter.

The Rockets put on an offensive onslaught tonight, ending the half with 72 points. This was the first time that happened since 1993.

The Rockets travel to New York Dec. 17 in what promises to be a ruckus crowd awaiting Jeremy Lin’s return.

In the Scrum With James Harden

After leading the Houston Rockets to a 109-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, James Harden took time to talk about his new role.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Harden Trade Bad For NBA

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s decision to trade James Harden to the Houston Rockets has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Late last night — during the middle of a tough loss by the Oklahoma Sooners that was distracting most of the state — the Thunder traded Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick that belonged to Charlotte.

One of the draft picks is Toronto’s from the Kyle Lowry deal and the other comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Jordan Hill deal last season.

Some fans will debate whether it was worth it for Harden to fight for the extra $5.5 million he will get from Houston, but I don’t think fans would be willing to leave money on the table when they negotiate their next contract.

On top of that, Oklahoma City was unable to offer Harden the fifth-year that Houston can because of the new collective bargaining agreement. According to that document, teams can only sign one player to a five-year deal, the rest of the roster can only accept a contract for a maximum of four years.

While it may seem blasphemous to say right now, there’s a strong possibility that Martin will provide more reliable outside shooting than Harden provided and that Lamb could develop into a great compliment to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. The problem with playing that “what if” game is the fact Harden was already a great compliment to their core group of players and he was their best three-point shooter last season.

Oklahoma City might also win the “lottery” with one of the two draft picks they secured in this trade. If they can get a top-five pick in the draft next June then Sam Presti will once again look like a genius.

So while there is hope for how this deal could play out in the future, what really stings is the fact the Thunder made a business decision instead of a personnel one when they were poised to start a season where they challenged for an NBA Championship.

When Oklahoma City dealt Jeff Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins a couple seasons back it stunned the fans and the players left on their roster. However, that was clearly a move made to give a young roster more experience and to toughen up their bigs. But trading Harden to Houston? That amounts to the Oklahoma City not having the kind of money needed to pay him $five million over five seasons due to worries about luxury tax payments. That’s a scary message for a small-market team to be sending to its players and fans.

What frustrates fans of the team is that Oklahoma City could have played out this season without any real penalty. Before this trade went down they were almost guaranteed a spot in the Western Conference Finals and many pundits had them playing in the NBA Finals.

Now? They still have a chance, but the odds aren’t nearly as good.

If Oklahoma City rode out this season they could have at least matched any offer that Harden received next summer and then traded him. So, they would have still gotten some pieces back and they would have been able to play out this season competing for an NBA Championship.

Last season the NBA played 66 games so that the league would have a competitive playing field. The idea was that bigger markets like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and Miami would no longer be able to dictate where the star players went.

So much for that utopian idea.

Heading into this season, Los Angeles alone is home to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Blake Griffen.

Meanwhile, Miami boasts heir own big three and Boston has three future Hall-of-Famers in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

It’s a shame the rich continue to get richer while small-market teams will continue to struggle to compete.

Even worse, it stinks that Oklahoma City cashed in their chips before even giving this season a chance to unfold.

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.