Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: James Harden is your NBA MVP

James Harden is the NBA MVP. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets’ season didn’t end the way they had hoped. General manager Daryl Morey had gone on record saying they were “obsessed” with beating the Warriors. They reached the Western Conference Finals against their arch nemesis and took a 3-2 lead. At the end of Game 5, however, Chris Paul’s hamstring gave out. The injury prevented him from finishing the game and kept him out of Games 6 and 7.

Some fans, and pundits alike, considered their season a failure. The “Elimination James” crowd was loud and clear in voicing their displeasure. I had gone on record saying the season was a failure because they didn’t beat the Warriors, which was their stated purpose. I believe they would’ve beaten the Cavs or Celtics in the NBA Finals, but it was the Warriors that posed the greatest test.

There was a time when Craig Shelton and I used to do Hustletown Sports on ESPN 97.5. When we did that show, one of his main points about the Rockets not being able to win was the fact that he believed Harden doesn’t possess “championship DNA.” That is a term encompassing mental toughness, the clutch gene, and killer instinct amongst other things. Craig coining this term actually went back to our previous stint at another station back in 2015. I was slow to jump on that bandwagon, but didn’t hesitate after his 13 turnover performance against the Warriors that same year. I always wanted to believe in Harden and that he’d help bring a title back to Houston. But that thought seemed more and more fleeting as the years went by.

Enter Chris Paul. Paul was traded for after he opted into the final year of his contract. The Clippers had become a toxic situation. Paul wanted out, and the Rockets needed more star power if they were to topple the league’s bully. I doubted that the Harden/Paul tandem would work. After all, Harden had become the point guard for the team, and Paul has established himself as a surefire Hall Of Famer at the position. Mike D’Antoni would have a job on his hands.

Low and behold, they won a franchise record 65 games, and now Harden has been named league MVP. I won’t bore you with his stats, but here’s a link if you need a refresher. This season was truly remarkable. Harden managed to play with Paul and killed the notion they couldn’t play together. With that, Harden also shook the stigma of not being able to play alongside other stars. People thought the Rockets would be “their” team, but Harden made it clear it’s “his” team. Paul is the Robin and Alfred to Harden’s Batman.

I’m happy for Harden, as should everyone who considers themselves a Rockets fan. Sure they fell short of the ultimate mark, but the ride was fun. It’s like riding in a limo to a dentist appointment. Sure you’re going to get teeth pulled, but the ride there was nice right? This only adds to Harden’s legacy. He will be a Hall Of Famer when his career is said and done, barring catastrophic injury. This was another notch in the belt, another stop on the highway to basketball immortality. In the MVP race he’s been a groomsmen, now he’s finally the groom. Let’s hope the next notch on his belt is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.

 

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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