FALCON POINT

Fred Faour: Observations on the Rockets, Derby and more

James Harden and the Rockets will be playing the Warriors soon. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

To the surprise of no one, the Rockets took a 3-1 lead in their series with the Jazz with a grind-it-out, wire-to-wire win Sunday night in Utah. Chris Paul took control with his midrange jumpers, scored 27 points and the Rockets are one inevitable win from what we have all been waiting for -- a series with the Warriors. 

There really is not much left to say about this series. The Jazz had a nice season, and should be happy to get this far. But they are simply not in the same stratosphere as the Rockets, who did not play all that well Sunday night, yet still did the Jazz in their own barn. 

Consider this: The Rockets shot just 42 percent -- 26.3 percent on 3-pointers -- and turned the ball over 13 times. They played a Jazz-style game, and still they coasted to a 13-point win. Their defense carried the day, and Utah simply does not have the weapons to compete with the Rockets in a seven-game series. The Rockets should close this out in five and we finally get what has been inevitable for months -- Rockets-Warriors for the whole thing. 

Derby daze

If you followed us leading up to Saturday's Kentucky Derby, you did not win money. But you did see a historic performance from Justify. He survived ridiculous early fractions, and accomploished something that had not been done since 1882 -- won the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. His trainer, Bob Baffert, compared him to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and the incredible Arrogate afterwards. He might even be better than those two monsters. To win the Derby in just his fourth start is incredible.

Our horses did not have much excuse. Bolt D'Oro chased the hot pace, then wilted when the real running started in the worst performance of his career. Combatant should have had the perfect setup, but he did not fire either. Enticed had a world of trouble -- like about 10 other horses -- and never had a real shot. 

As we move to the Preakness, Justify looks very tough to beat. We will be trying to make money off exactas and trifectas with long shots behind him. One of the oddities of the Derby is with 20 horses, you will always have at least six or seven that get taken out due to traffic. Saturday's race eliminated even more than that. That will give us some good prices on legitimate contenders. But barring something weird, we are probably looking at another Triple Crown winner. Horses make their legacy by accomplishing special things, and what this horse did Saturday could not be done. On a side note, it was great meeting so many blitzers on raceday. Nothing better than getting a chance to meet fun people. We did not win, but expect us to bounce back in a big way two weeks from now.

Stop being jerks, please

I am going to dive into this with more detail later in the week, but the inner city is really growing when it comes to the bike community. As such, car drivers need to be more aware and considerate. But it goes both ways; cyclists need to do the same. We did a ride on Sunday, and many of the cyclists were frankly inconsiderate jerks who almost caused several issues. Stay tuned to SportsMap for more details later in the week.

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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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