BUYER'S REMORSE?

How the media in New York could make Rockets fans feel better

How the media in New York could make Rockets fans feel better
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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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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