IS THIS THING ON?

Harden played so poorly, a Rockets broadcaster accidentally spoke the truth

We've seen this before. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Lesson No. 1 – on the first day of freshman Broadcasting 101 – if there's a microphone within a thousand yards of you, assume it's "hot" and don't say anything stupid.

Wednesday night, during the Houston Rockets post-game show on AT&T SportsNet, veteran (and we do mean veteran, as in 35-plus years on the air), Calvin Murphy offered a backhanded compliment to brooding Rockets star James Harden. Murphy commented that while Harden had a poor shooting night, he "did the right things getting everybody else involved." True, Harden dished out 12 assists despite scoring only 15 points on 5-14 shooting, including a disinterested 4 points in the closing quarter.

Then, as the post-game show went to a commercial, and thinking his microphone was off, Murphy muttered, "He (Harden) quit," with clear disgust in his voice.

The Rockets lost 114-107 to the Indiana Pacers, with Harden on the floor in crunch time.

In defense (a word rarely associated with The Beard), Harden dearly wants to be traded out of Houston. A good way to convince your employer to say goodbye is to go home early on work nights, which is what Harden did Wednesday.

It wasn't the first time a Rockets broadcaster dissed Harden this season. Earlier, after Rockets new star Christian Wood drove coast-to-coast for a spectacular lefty layup, Bill Worrell shouted, "Who needs James Harden?"

Worrell later covered his poop by saying he meant that Wood didn't need to outlet the ball to Harden on that play.

Blurting out something dumb is a time-honored tradition in broadcasting, dating back to the early days of radio. Murphy should be comforted by the fact that hot-mic blunders typically aren't career killers.

Last year, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were caught mocking military flyovers during nearly empty stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aikman said, "That's a lot of jet fuel to do a little flyover." Buck responded, "That's your hard-earned money and your tax dollars at work." To which Aikman punctuated, "That stuff ain't happening with (a) Kamala-Biden ticket. I'll tell you that right now."

Neither was punished, both still at work. Regrettable comments certainly aren't limited to sports. Idiocy has always felt more at home in politics. Two examples:

In 2010, a hot mic caught Joe Biden whispering in President Obama's ear, "this is a big f------ deal during the Affordable Care Act signing ceremony.

A few years ago, Donald Trump was caught bragging he could "grab 'em by the p----."

Both were elected President of the United States. I don't think Murphy will lose his job over Harden "quit," especially since he did.

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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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