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 media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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