YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS

Maybe UH football is the only program that got it right

Photo by Jonathan Bachman / Stringer/Getty Images.

Before you read this article, full disclosure here: I am good friends with UH head coach Dana Holgorsen. I have been for a long time. Do I want to see him win? Yes. But I wanted to see Major Applewhite win too. I liked him. And I liked Tony Levine and Tom Herman. I'm still friends with Kevin Sumlin. I liked Art Briles and Dana Dimel (although I knew he wasn't going to win much). My relationship with UH coaches goes back to Kim Helton who was great to me when I was one of the new guys in town.

I also like UH AD Chris Pezman a lot and I think President Khator is a superstar. I'm a big fan. I guess you could say I'm a UH fan. Maybe I'm not supposed to be because I'm in the media but I don't care. I want to see them win.

So when they got hit with a scud missile in the Houston Chronicle after UH shut down the football program last week I was pissed. Just three short days later in that same paper Jerome Solomon wrote a piece on how all of college football could be and maybe should be shut down.

Wait…what? Which is it? You can't have it both ways. Either it was good to shut it down or it wasn't.

That first piece condemning the leadership was written by Joseph Duarte who's the Coogs beat writer. I've known Joseph a long time. He's a good guy but what he wrote can undermine the program.

My main contention with his article is this sentence:

"If you rushed student-athletes back to campus with a flimsy, inadequate and ill-conceived plan, why should parents and fans have trust in anything you do or say moving forward?"

First of all, they didn't rush the players back. All of college football came back at the same time, June 1st.

Secondly, the plan was a 35-page document put together by 21 staffers and four doctors. It was neither flimsy, inadequate nor ill-conceived. Smart, concerned people worked on it. It apparently didn't meet Joseph's standards.

His main objection was that it didn't include the testing of all players on June 1st, the day the student-athletes arrived. He says UH was the only FBS school in the state that didn't test all their athletes that day. I haven't asked the other schools. I'll trust he's accurate there.

It is true that UH did not test all the players when they arrived. The plan was to test anyone who had a cough, fever, sniffle, sore throat, diarrhea or any other symptom however remote. They did and they were all negative.

Then just five days later the players were off on a long weekend which included trips to Galveston, the protests and funeral of George Floyd and wherever else 18 to 21-year olds chose to go. On June 11th they had six positive tests. On June 12th they shut down the football program.

This past weekend The University of Texas reported 13 positive tests, Clemson had 23. Texas A&M says their positive tests are on the rise. LSU has 30 players in quarantine.

30.

All those programs are still active.

UH had six positives and shut down their program.

Instead of being criticized, UH should be lauded for putting their student-athletes ahead of their football program. You think Dana doesn't want his guys working out together, building comradery, having player-led practices? Of course he does. While UH players are at home, every other program in the country is spending valuable time together, the positive tests be damned.

What's become quite clear is that the initial tests were useless. Ask Clemson. They had all those negative tests on June 1st, and they have 23 positive tests now. You'll be hard-pressed to find any school that doesn't have more positives than it did on June 1st. If they say they don't, they're probably lying. The fact is that unless you incarcerate and isolate your players from the rest of society they will be at risk of contracting the virus.

Was Dana supposed to tell his players they couldn't protest or go to the funeral? Good luck with that.

What really stings though is the attack on the leadership at UH for not protecting the athletes and how parents and fans can't trust them now. That's a line that opposing recruiters will use in living rooms all over the state and that's a shame because the exact opposite is true.

While other programs continue to put their athletes at risk with up to dozens of players testing positive, UH acted swiftly and decisively in shutting down its program, sending kids home, hopefully out of harm's way.

Later in the article Duarte took another shot at Pezman and Khator saying they had been "redshirting this spring." He thinks they disappeared at the most crucial time because they wouldn't answer his phone calls when he was looking for a quote for his piece.

What he may find from now on is that his phone calls to them will be going from redshirt straight into the transfer portal.

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Composite image by Brandon Strange.

In recent reports, there have been multiple rumors that the 76ers could make a push for James Harden if they can sign Mike D' Antoni as their head coach. As the 76ers fired Brett Brown in August, they are now looking for a culture change. So, it won't come as a surprise if the 76ers try to trade Joel Embiid for Harden. Hopefully, Daryl Morey recognizes the talent of Harden and rejects the idea of trading him.

Harden is easily the second greatest Rocket of in franchise history, including being second in scoring. In Harden's eight-year tenure with the Rockets, he has become an NBA MVP, made the All-NBA team seven times, three-time scoring champ, and an eight-time All-Star. Harden's resume with the Rockets is impressive, including going to Western Conference Finals twice. Ever since Harden came to Houston in 2012, he revamped the Rockets' franchise with eight consecutive playoff runs. Before Harden came to the Rockets, this franchise had missed the playoffs three times in a row.

Harden also attracted huge free agents like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook, which helped him succeed in his Rockets tenure. He has made the Rockets an attractive team to play on since being in Houston for eight years.

Even though Harden has been great with the Rockets, he has not reached the Finals yet. That has been the huge question mark on Harden's resume while playing for the Rockets. Honestly, there are certain moments when Harden has disappeared in big games. In 2015 versus the Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Semifinals, Harden shot 5 of 20 from the field, and was benched in the 4th quarter by Kevin McHale, as the Rockets were led by Josh Smith to force a Game 7 in Houston. Also, during the Spurs-Rockets Western Semifinals of 2017, Harden had another disappearance in Game 6. Harden shot 2 of 11 from the field with only 10 points as the Rockets lost to the Spurs 114-75 without Kawhi Leonard.

Despite those two horrible examples, Harden was extremely close in 2018 versus the Warriors but an injury to Paul's hamstring stopped the Rockets' momentum, as they lost in game 7 by missing 22 straight three-pointers. The following year, the Rockets lost to the Warriors again without Kevin Durant because Paul and Harden were not on the same page in the Western Semifinals. Things were not different this year, as the Rockets were overpowered by the Lakers 4-1.

Trading the 32-year-old Harden could be tempting because of the recent playoff failures, but he is a generational player. In the last 5 years, Harden has dominated the NBA with his elite scoring. Harden has averaged over 30 plus points per game in the last three seasons. He is also classified as one of the greatest scorers of all-time behind Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Wilt Chamberlin.

Stephen A. Smith lays out why he thinks Harden is the greatest scorer currently in the NBA in the video below.

James Harden is 'the greatest scorer in the NBA' - Stephen A. | First Take youtu.be

After all the things Harden has accomplished in Houston, is he still untouchable? Honestly, if Harden is traded, the culture for the Rockets will drastically change, especially with new players coming to Houston. In my opinion, Harden and Morey are very close but Morey is blinded by his own decisions because of Harden. Morey built this team around James and does anything to please him. He wanted to keep D'Antoni around because of Harden, which is not helpful for the Rockets. If the Rockets are going to win big, Morey has to be stronger with his own judgement of the team, and not Harden's.

If the Rockets decided to trade James Harden to the 76ers, they could receive Embiid and Josh Richardson, which is still good. The Rockets would get a big man, who is a superstar, and a great wing defender, which gave Harden problems two years when he played for the Heat. This would not be bad decision if the Rockets decided to move on from Harden.

Before Morey decides to pull the trigger, he needs to digest Harden's accolades, including his shortcomings. Hopefully, the right decision is made for the Rockets' organization.

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