ROCKETS RELAUNCH

Examining the James Harden trade and everything that led up to it

Examining the James Harden trade and everything that led up to it
Farewell to The Beard.Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
An appeal to reason sheds honest light on Rockets, Harden noise

After another tough loss against the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden finally admitted that he no longer wants to play for the Houston Rockets. Harden started showing signs after a loss to the Indiana Pacers by only scoring 14 points off 14 shots. Honestly, that is unlike Harden to shoot 14 times a game.

"Just not good enough ... I love this city," as Harden told the media Tuesday night after a Rockets' loss. "I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

In Harden's last four games, engagement wasn't the problem, but his usage rate dropped tremendously from 35 percent to 28 percent. A naked eye could figure out Harden was forcing himself out of Houston. Ever since training camp, Harden has put in multiple trade requests, including showing up to camp late and adding on extra weight. Harden created a chaotic situation for the Rockets Tuesday night by asking for a trade during his media session.

Harden even managed bashing the Rockets' roster and their chemistry on the court. It was shocking to see Harden turn on his teammates, so he could leave Houston. John Wall has done everything to make their chemistry work in the backcourt. Stephen Silas has also defended Harden countless times during media sessions.

"We're just not good enough. Chemistry, talent wise. And it was clear these last few games," as Harden told the media.

Wall mentioned building a relationship with Harden in the backcourt has been hard.

"I think it's been a little rocky, can't lie about that. I don't think it's been the best it could be, to be honest. That's all I really could say," as Wall told the media.

He also defended this team when Harden criticized the Rockets' potential. Wall believes it takes everyone 1-15 to build something special on the court. He believes that everybody should buy-in and that one player can ruin potential by being selfish.

"Like I told everybody tonight, when the 1-15 guys are all on the same page and they commit...you all will be fine. But when you have certain guys in the mix that don't want to buy-in as one, it's gonna be hard to do anything special as a basketball team...It hurts," as Wall told the media. "If we can all get on the same page, we can be something good here. We can't dwell down on it because it's only been 9 games. Come on, man. You're going to jump off the cliff off of 9 games? There's a lot of basketball still to be played."

As Wednesday afternoon approached, Silas mentioned it wasn't the best idea for Harden to come to practice. Honestly, the Rockets' organization likely made the decision, so no feuds happened in the locker room or practice. The Rockets have lost four out of five games within two weeks, and they play the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night on TNT. After practice, DeMarcus Cousins sounded off on Harden's comments, which was entertaining.

"The disrespect [from James Harden] started way before any interview. Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, antics off the court. I mean the disrespect started way before. So this isn't something that all of a sudden happened last night," as Cousins sounded off during his press conference. "Other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him. For us to be on the receiving end of disrespectful comments and antics...it's unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room."

Things started to get spicy as trade rumors started surfacing from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets again. The Rockets were able to complete a four-team trade, so they could send Harden to the Nets for Caris LeVert, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, and four first-round draft picks. Rafael Stone the Rockets GM was able to trade LeVert for Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers. The Rockets should have kept LeVert who is still under a contract while Oladipo is a free agent for this summer. Hopefully, Stone can offer Oladipo an extension if he is healthy and the Rockets make the playoffs, which they should.

Since Harden is finally gone, hopefully the Rockets can focus on the rest of the season. This will help Silas figure out the roster even more when it comes to minutes. All of the drama is now over so let's play basketball and focus on implanting Oladipo into the offense.

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Coogs beat the Sooners, 87-85. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

Jamal Shead hit a short follow shot with 0.4 seconds left and No. 1 Houston beat Oklahoma 87-85 on Saturday night, giving coach Kelvin Sampson a victory over one of his former schools.

Shead missed a driving layup attempt, but corralled the rebound and put the Cougars back ahead after they blew a 15-point lead. Emanuel Sharp tipped away a desperation pass by Oklahoma’s Milos Uzan as time expired.

“The main thing (on the last shot) was to get it to the rim,” Sampson said. “We weren’t going to shoot anything outside of 5 feet. There were three ways to win that game — a whistle, make the shot or (grab) an offensive rebound and put it in — and we got the third one.”

Sampson credited the result to Houston’s “winning DNA. We had a lot of things go against us tonight. … We were just plugging the holes in the boat up.”

L.J. Cryer led Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) with 23 points, making 5 of 9 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Shead scored 14 points. Houston shot 56.7% from the field and Oklahoma was at 52.7%.

Rivaldo Soares had 16 points for Oklahoma (19-10, 7-9). Le’Tre Darthard had 15 points, finishing 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

Sampson coached Oklahoma from 1994 to 2006 and ranks second in program history with 279 wins and first in winning percentage (.719). Before Saturday, he’d never coached against the Sooners, but Houston’s entry into the Big 12 for this basketball season provided that opportunity.

Sampson received a warm welcome as he entered the Lloyd Noble Arena court, with many fans applauding, cheering and standing. Just before player introductions, Sampson and his three assistants with Oklahoma ties — former players Hollis Price, Quannas White and Kellen Sampson, his son — were individually recognized with announcements and pictured on the video board.

“The memories that I will take from here are just amazing,” Kelvin Sampson said. “Oklahoma will always be home in a lot of ways.”

Houston made its first week this season at No. 1 a successful one, with two wins. The Cougars are a game ahead of No. 8 Iowa State in the conference standings with two games left in the regular season and remain in the conversation for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Houston has won eight of the last nine games it has played as the No. 1-ranked team and is 35-5 overall while atop the AP poll.

Oklahoma dropped its second game of the week against a top-10 opponent, having lost 58-45 at Iowa State on Wednesday night.

The Sooners pushed Houston to the limit. Houston led 67-52 with 12:01 left, but the Sooners methodically closed that gap and Javian McCollum’s layup with 11.8 seconds left tied it at 85. It came after a hustle play by Uzan, who tracked down a rebound off a missed free throw and threw it off the leg of Sharp, allowing it to carom out of bounds.

Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said the vibe in the Sooners’ locker room was “tough. It wasn’t like they were happy to be close. They’re hurting. That’s a good sign. … That’s the elite of the elite and we’ve got to find a way to win that. That’s my job.

“I thought they were resilient battling back. Houston made tough shots, open shots, good shots. They do a lot of good things … but I thought we did too. We played the best team in the country, but we fell short. The margin of error when you play a team that good is small.”

Godwin went 6 of 6 from the field and led Oklahoma with 17 points, missing only the one free throw in six attempts as well. He also had seven rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: Sampson surely appreciated the warm welcome from fans on his return to Oklahoma, but he’s undoubtedly glad to have the emotional game against the Sooners over with. Now he can push the Cougars to focus on finishing the regular season strong and prepare them for the postseason.

Oklahoma: A win over the nation’s No. 1 team might have pushed the Sooners up a line or two in NCAA tournament seeding, but the loss shouldn’t damage their postseason hopes too much. Oklahoma probably needs at least one win next week — at home against Cincinnati or at Texas — to stay comfortably off the NCAA bubble heading into the Big 12 Tournament.

UP NEXT:

Houston: At Central Florida on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma: Host Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

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