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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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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