END OF AN ERA?

Here's why trading James Harden might be best for everybody

The time may have come to trade James Harden. Composite image by Jack Brame

Was it something Houston said? In the past week, J.J. Watt, the greatest football player in Houston Texans history, made it perfectly clear that he'd rather play his home games elsewhere, preferably with a team contending for a Super Bowl.

At the same time, while the Rockets swear no, chatter persists that James Harden, the No. 1-a (with Hakeem Olajuwon) basketball player in Houston history, may be available in a trade if the price is right.

You know, maybe the Rockets should do it. The Beard has played eight seasons in Houston producing three scoring titles and one MVP, more than $100 million in salary, a $200 million shoe contract, but no Western Conference titles and not a sniff of the NBA Finals.

As a distinguished medical expert once suggested taking a drug proved ineffective against coronavirus … what the hell do you have to lose?

Next season will be a new start for the Rockets, with a new coach, new general manager and possibly a new style of offense. Sure Houston fans get off on James Harden's iso dribble-dribble-dribble 3-pointers and free throw shooting contest, but around the league, fans are falling asleep or clicking the remote.

How about a trade, Harden for 76'ers point guard Ben Simmons and a bunch of first-round draft picks? Sure, that'd be trading one of the most prolific 3-point bombers for someone who's shooting range is "dunk and closer" (a tip of the hat to Charlie Pallilo).

Having Simmons join Russell Westbrook in the Rockets backcourt might be the worst 3-point shooting tandem but a marketing dream. Bill Worrell: "That last shot was brought to you by Acme Brick, 5020 Acorn Street in Houston."

Harden-Simmons isn't only a possible NBA trade, it's a misspelled D3 college in Abilene (Hardin-Simmons).

The Rockets scheme of acquiring superstars (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard) to pair with Harden hasn't worked. And Harden is on the dirty side of 30. So, yeah, what the hell do they have to lose by trading him?

There happens to be a lovestruck Harden fan in the City of Brotherly Love, former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose desire of spending more time with his family lasted about two weeks. I had the over/under at three days. Ask anybody who works at home these days.

In his farewell to Houston, Morey wrote: "James Harden changed my life. He not only transformed my life but also revolutionized the game of basketball, and continues to do so, like almost no one has before. The game is played differently because of James, and on every playground in the world, the next generation of talent is studying and imitating his game."

Hey, why don't you two get a room? I've seen less romantic Valentine's cards.

Obviously Morey would love to angle a trade for Harden. First, Harden would provide an outside scoring threat to go along with All-Star center Joel Embiid. Perhaps more important, it's only human nature to want to stick it to your former employer. How's that saying go? Hell hath no fury like a general manager scorned.

Here's something the Philadelphia welcome wagon might use to entice Harden: according to Yelp, the Top 5 strip clubs in Philly are Club Risque, Delilah's, Pleasure Garden, Cheerleaders and Cheeks Lounge.

Cheeks Lounge … hilarious.

It's not like the Rockets, as is, will be favorites to win the Western Conference next year. First clue: LeBron James plays in that conference. King James' teams have won their conference nine of the past 10 years. The only year that James' team didn't get to the NBA Finals was 2019, when James was injured and played a career-low 55 games. Also, the Golden State Warriors will have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back, plus they have the No. 2 draft pick.

That's tough sledding for the Rockets, with or without Harden. Without might be best for everybody.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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