BREAKUPS ARE NEVER EASY

Here’s why a James Harden trade could be poison to the NBA, Rockets

Rockets James Harden
It's not about the money this time. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Let's say the Houston Rockets cave to James Harden's demand and trade him to the Brooklyn Nets. That will be one hell of a Big Three – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and The Beard – in New York City's most populous borough (yes, bigger than Manhattan).

Great for Brooklyn, sure. The Nets would be the overwhelming pick to win the NBA's Eastern Conference. Just like the Miami Heat won four consecutive Eastern Conference titles with their Big Three – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Like Golden State won three NBA titles with their Big Three – Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Like the Los Angeles Lakers won everything this year with their Big Three – LeBron James, Anthony Davis and anybody else who happened to be on the floor.

Super teams are good for the city where they play. But a bad deal for everybody and everywhere else.

The NBA thrives on superstars and super teams. When TNT and ESPN put together their TV schedules, they're not thinking, "We've got to get more Sacramento games on this year."

The Rockets are in utter chaos, a new coach, new general manager and both its stars want out. The Rockets reportedly are OK starting the season with Harden and Westbrook aboard. It's never a good idea to keep someone in a relationship when they want to be with someone else. Eventually you'll find a "Dear Tilman" note on the kitchen table.

The NFL used to have a goal, on any given Sunday. That's not the NBA, more now than ever, with super teams forming in major markets, or a warm climate with lots of nightlife along South Beach.

There are 30 teams in the NBA, so let's turn back the clock 30 years and count forward. Over the past three decades, two-thirds of NBA teams have not won the NBA title.

That means there are adults, with jobs and families, who own homes and pay taxes … who have never experienced a championship parade in their hometown in their lifetime.

Let's count 'em up: Orlando, Indiana, New York, Charlotte, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Charlotte-New Orleans, Utah, Seattle-OKC, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore-Washington, Phoenix, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles (Clippers), Vancouver-Memphis and Sacramento.

The Vancouver Grizzlies were created in 1995 and moved to Memphis in 2001. The present-day Charlotte Hornets were created in 2004. Neither team has won an NBA title.

The NBA, as we know it, started play in 1946. Some of those cities, like Charlotte, Denver, Sacramento and Atlanta have never even made an NBA Finals.

Harden may never bring a title to Houston. But he is the team's most popular player. He makes the All-NBA team. He wins scoring titles. He gets the biggest cheers at Toyota Center when they announce the starting lineup. Most important, he sells tickets. The Rockets need Harden more than Harden needs the Rockets. The Beard reportedly turned down $50 million a year to stay. You don't need Dr. Phil to tell you that one-way relationships never work out.

If the Rockets trade Harden to Brooklyn, and Westbrook to anywhere they'll take the $130 million left on his contract, don't expect much in return. The Rockets probably will receive a couple of role players and draft picks. Fun fact (OK, maybe not fun): not a single player on the Rockets' current 18-man roster was drafted by Houston. Thanks, Daryl.

Without Harden and Westbrook's star power, the Rockets become just another team – the no-name "other guys" for Shaq, Kenny, Charles and Ernie to explain why they're going to lose. Especially Charles if the Rockets are playing.

How many Indiana Pacers can you name? Sacramento Kings? Orlando Magic?

Next year, Houston Rockets?

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Extremely positive Yordan Alvarez update from Astros opens door for landmark year

It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.

Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.

While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.

Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.

Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.

Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.

He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.

So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?

Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.

One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.

Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.

So what does all this mean for Yordan?

Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!

Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.

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