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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome