Point Blank

Joel Blank: Would Harden be able to embrace being the second fiddle to LeBron James?

James Harden likes being The Man. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Now that the NBA season is over and the Golden State Warriors are once again champions, Rockets fans are left to think about what could have been if Chris Paul was healthy for Games 6 and 7. Red Nation is now focused on the possibility of Lebron James coming to Houston and getting them back on top of the basketball world for the first time in over 23 years. Sure, it’s fun to dream, but how realistic are the chances that the King comes a calling and is he worth gutting the rest of the roster? After all, this years' team set a franchise record for wins and had the best record in the league. A bigger question might be; would James Harden give up his top dog status to play Robin to Lebron's Batman?

Ever since James Harden got to Houston, it's been his team. To be more specific, it has been his franchise. He has had everything and everyone in the organization at his beck and call. Every billboard is the Beard, every commercial is centered on number 13 and every move is made with him in mind. Even getting Chris Paul here was the doing of the MVP candidate. What makes any of you think he is willing to give all that up and worse yet, turn the keys over to a guy he has had his issues with in the past in Lebron? Is possibly winning a title enough to give up control of the locker room, the franchise and to some degree, the city? Only time will tell but it’s definitely worth keeping in the back of your mind as the free agent fun prepares to begin.

You may be thinking that Harden already did it once when the team traded for CP3, but looking at how the season played out it was still Harden who took center stage. He just had a proven leader to hand off to when times got tough or the situation called for it. Paul was even gracious enough to take a half step back and make sure that everyone understood it was still Harden's squad. It might be a different story if the greatest player of the last 15 years of NBA basketball came to town? Lebron James doesn't take a back seat to anyone, why would he take one for Harden?

For all the improvements we have seen in Harden's maturity level and as good as he has gotten at embracing all the expectations and demands of being "the man," he still has a ways to go before he is in the rarefied air of James and Michael Jordan. We are all too familiar with Harden's playoff shortcomings and how they don’t come close to the legendary postseason performances of the King, including three rings and eight straight Finals appearances. For all the shortcomings when the stakes are highest, the Beard's ego is all-world and he loves every minute of it.

The truth is, Harden has never been willing to give up his pedestal to anyone since he got to Houston— not for Dwight Howard, Daryl Morey or even Chris Paul. He likes having the keys to the car and we all know he loves to drive. The real question now is, will he become a back seat driver if it means getting the first NBA title of his career? We shall see. Getting James to take a step back might prove to be more difficult than trying to get a team to actually take Ryan Anderson in a trade this summer.

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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