ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

An appeal to reason sheds honest light on Rockets, Harden noise

Ever think maybe Harden wasn't the problem? Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

How about instead of hating on James Harden for wanting out of Houston, Rockets fans wish him the best of luck and say thank you?

Thank you for playing your heart out eight years in a Rockets uniform, rarely missing a game for injury and flat out saying no to load management. The only blip on his citizenship grade was a one-game suspension without pay for kicking LeBron James in the jewels. That was in 2015, people forget.

Thank you for eight All-Star Game appearances, six All-NBA honors, four 60-point games, three scoring titles and one MVP Award.

Thank you for taking underprivileged children and their parents on Christmas shopping sprees and picking up the bill, your summer camp for kids, and donating $1 million to help victims of Hurricane Harvey rebuild their homes and lives. Thank you for your 3TheHardenWay charitable foundation.

But instead of gratitude, all I'm hearing from media and fans is good riddance. Because Harden wants to play with another team that has a better shot at an NBA title? Gee, nobody ever does that in today's superstar-driven NBA ... except for Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and LeBron James. Three times LeBron James.

I'm hearing, "We've given Harden everything he's ever asked for. We've paid him hundreds of millions of dollars and traded for three future Hall of Famers to play with him. It never works out because Harden is a bad teammate. And this is how he pays us back, by demanding a trade?" Monday night, ESPN's Scott Van Pelt scolded Harden for being disloyal and wanting to leave despite three years and $130 million left on his contract.

Those three future Hall of Famers: Dwight Howard will play for the 76'ers next year, his seventh team. Chris Paul will play for the Suns, his fifth team. Russell Westbrook will play for the Wizards, his third team in three years.

Ever think maybe Harden wasn't the problem?

Interesting how Harden wants to be traded out of Houston to play for a winner, and he's an ungrateful villain, topping a radio station's poll of most hated athlete in Houston. Meanwhile Houston's biggest football star J.J. Watt is essentially saying the same thing, and fans support his desire to leave.

I've heard media folks say "Harden never really connected with Rockets fans." What row were they sitting in Toyota Center? Harden always got the loudest cheers during team introductions. Fans wore more No. 13 jerseys than any other. Kids screamed their heads off for Harden.

True, Harden wasn't able to bring an NBA title to Houston. Unless a team's roster had LeBron, Kawhi or Steph, there weren't that many titles left for the winning.

Charles Barkley never won an NBA title, had several brushes with the law, some really smarmy incidents, and now he's America's sweetheart. And Harden's a bad guy?

I never heard Jazz fans blame Karl Malone or John Stockton for Utah failing to win a title. Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller never won a title. Championships aren't the only qualifier for greatness.

Sure James Harden isn't Mr. Personality with a degree from a Hollywood finishing school. He isn't going to host Holy Moley goony golf on ABC prime time, star in Space Jam 3 or funny guy State Farm commercials or produce The Wall on NBC prime time.

Harden is a basketball creature, an ultimate gym rat, one of the purely unstoppable scorers in league history. When the Rockets are tied with five minutes left, aren't you thinking, "I want Harden to take every shot the rest of this game?"

Harden showed up for Rockets team practice Monday, and he will play tonight (Tuesday) against San Antonio. He's still a Rocket for now. According to reports, Harden still wants out of Houston, and nothing the Rockets can do, including a $50 million a year contract extension or trading Westbrook for John Wall will change that.

Unlike some players demanding to be traded, Harden hasn't burned the village on his way out. He will get his security deposit back. He's making the best of a bad situation where he knows he will emerge looking selfish and spoiled.

Harden's post-game interviews are mopey. He mumbles something about "being aggressive on defense" and excuses himself. Some people are turned off by his habit of frequenting strip clubs. He's 31, rich and single. That's the strip club demo. Getting involved with a Kardashian lady is never a good look and didn't endear him to some Rockets season ticket buyers. But what's it your business where he stops on his way home?

Give me a player and person like The Beard any day. He gave us eight years.

Thank you, James Harden.

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers 400. MIS is one of the fastest racetracks in the country, as cars are capable of reaching speeds of 201-205 miles per hour. Hopefully, we will see a safe race considering the speeds we see here. We will more than likely see a race that is vastly different from what we saw last here when the drivers utilized the draft to pass around this track. This year, the cars are less aero-dependent and will be much more spread out. The drivers will need to continue to manage their tires as they have been doing all year.

Last weekend at Indy, Tyler Reddick captured his second victory of 2022 in dramatic fashion. The race came down to numerous restarts where drivers would drive way too deep into the first corner and run into each other each time. This was the central theme of the race, as restarts pretty much decided everything. We saw drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get swept up in wrecks in turn one. On the final restart, Ross Chastain decided he didn’t want to be a part of these shenanigans and took the access road that skipped turn one. This moved catapulted him to the lead with Tyler Reddick as the two battled for the lead in a two-lap shootout. When the dust settled, Reddick came away victorious and Ross Chastain was black flagged for shortcutting.

The finish of this race sparked a serious debate among drivers and fans alike about ditching the Indianapolis road course and returning to the oval in 2023. Personally, this doesn’t make any sense to me. While yes, turn one is difficult to maneuver, it’s mainly because drivers all decide to send it as deep as they can, not because of the racetrack configuration. It’s also a bit disingenuous as for years, drivers and fans have been saying they don’t want to see the oval and that the track is designed for IndyCar. If I had to choose, I would say NASCAR just stop going to Indy and go to the short track down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. We have seen so many great races there, and I think the Cup Series would be perfect for that track. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how NASCAR responds to this and what they decide to do for next season.

Kurt Busch will be out for the third consecutive week as he continues to recover from a concussion. This has been tough to hear about, and now there are legitimate concerns that he will not return to racing. There is a good chance however that 23XII could be saving him for the playoffs which are coming up.

For now, Ty Gibbs will continue to fill in for Busch. In his two starts the young phenom has performed extremely well, finishing 16th at Pocono and 17th at Indy. It’s clear that this young man can drive these cars, the only problem is finding a place for him to run next season.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. By any other standard, the season that Truex is having has been great. Constantly up front, leading laps and just overall contending. Unfortunately for him, 2022 hasn’t been just any average season. With 14 winners and Truex not being one of them, he is on the playoff bubble even though he is fourth in points. While his playoff future maybe uncertain right now, there are some good racetracks he is going to where can easily get that first win, and Michigan is one of them. Over the last four races here, he currently has the highest average finish, the highest percentage of laps led, but no victories. I see that changing this week. Toyota and Gibbs have been fast this season as Truex’s teammates have all punched their tickets to the playoffs. Look for Truex to be next in line.

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