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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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