ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

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

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 Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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