Love him or hate him, you can't deny James Harden's greatness anymore

The Beard: Credit where credit is due

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Every NBA season for the past 4 or 5 years, the Harden hate picks up steam and rolls like a barrel downhill. For James Harden, it's inescapable, no matter what he does, including winning an NBA MVP award. The critics come from out of the woodwork and spread like wildfire. Locally, nationally and on social media, everyone wants to take shots at unlucky 13. It started with his inability to play defense and continued with his selfish, ball hog mentality of an offensive style that was predicated by isolating while over dribbling. The narrative this year is that he is drawing too many fouls, taking advantage of the system, getting too many calls and taking far too many shots to get his numbers. "Scoring ugly" is now a huge negative and the number one knock on the leading scorer in the entire league. No matter what he does he can't escape the critics and the criticism, but after this current streak of torid scoring and dead eye shooting, isn't it time to start giving the man the credit he deserves?

I get it, there have been reasons in the past to criticize James and to poke holes at a player that has put up big regular season numbers and statistics since he came to H-town only to fail miserably in the playoffs. The post season shortcomings are not going away anytime soon, at least not until he takes this Houston team to places they haven't seen since the title teams of 1994 and 1995. Until the Rockets win a Western Conference title and at least compete for another championship, the number one target for the naysayers is going to be the best player on the team. To be fair, a lot of the criticism has been deserved and earned based on his past performances, like his record setting turnover game against the Warriors in the West finals a few years ago and the disappearing act against the Spurs two years ago. Undoing those knocks on "Unlucky 13" is going to take some time and will require some success that he hasn't had since he was the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Melo experiment failed, Ariza and Luc walked and CP3 took the money and wanted to run it back, but once again his hamstrings won't let him. The losses started piling up and the critics were lining up to take their shots and write the Rockets off. Just when you thought it was safe to sink the ship, the Beard has put the team on his shoulders and carried this team right back in the thick of things in the West. James Harden has been a savior this season and all the haters better think long and hard about where their favorite team would be right now if not for the MVP and SWAG champ.

The numbers speak for themselves and the results cannot be argued. James Harden has scored 30+ points in the last nine games where he has averaged 40.6 points during the run. He has led the team to four straight victories since Paul went out with his latest hamstring injury and is putting up 42.3 since CP3 went down. His three straight 40+ point games matches Moses Malone for the longest streak in franchise history. His seventh consecutive 35+ point games is the 11th longest scoring run in NBA history and his 35+ point, 5 assist run over those same seven games ties Oscar Robertson for the longest stretch in league history. More important to Houston fans, the team has won 9 of 10, is in first place in the division and they have climbed all the way back to the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings, one half game out of the top four. Without the beard, your season would already be over and you would be looking forward to what moves could be made to right the ship for next year. Harden has been nothing short of phenomenal as he has singlehandedly brought this squad back from the depths of the dead. You can skewer the roster and go over the box scores with a fine toothed comb, it won't matter, you won't find any other factor that's even close.

Let's give the man his due and the credit he deserves people! Don't hate the player, hate the game and the rules that go with it. Are you mad at Harden or angered by the fact that at least one player has mastered the rules and made the ability to draw a foul an art form? From offensive efficiency, stat stuffing a box score every game, prolific scoring and the ability to get to the free throw line, the beard has taken his game and the league to levels we haven't seen before. Harden has matured and learned to tune out the noise and just play his game. He has even started to own the hate, embracing the criticism while continuing to do what he does on a nightly basis. He is speaking with more confidence as he gives himself props as a front runner for another MVP award while letting the world know he will not let up and plans on doing this the rest of the year. Basketball purests and NBA experts say he can't keep this up for an entire season, but who's to say he can't prove everyone wrong and keep doing what he has been doing for the first 35 games? Hopefully he won't have to as Paul will return at some point, as will members of the supporting cast that has been dinged up as well. Even if the cavalry comes to the rescue there are no signs that the Lone Ranger has any plans to ease up, slow down or stop powering forward. Houston, praise your superstar and be thankful he is wearing your team's uniform and tune out the hate of the rest of the hoop world. Haters gonna hate, Harden's gonna keep on being great.

Art by Jesus Rodriguez

Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio and Sports. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio show at www.nerdthugradio.com!

Hey Nerds!

It's Monday, I'm still here and we have lots to do!

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY

This week we're going to focus on the AICF and Mark Clayton Scholarship Golf Tournament it's a scholarship fund and a golf tournament, which are things that everyone knows and loves. Let's get together, have a good time and help people go to college. #NerdsUnite

THE BIG TRADE

So the LA Lakers finally landed Davis. First congrats to LA for going and being aggressive and getting the guy they targeted this whole time. Secondly, everyone is talking about the great haul New Orleans got, I honestly don't think there's very much value to all of these pieces. Consider New Orleans missed the playoffs this year with AD playing the first two thirds of the season and LA fell out of the playoffs once LeBron wasn't available to carry the team.

Everyone is talking about the haul of players and picks, here's the dirty little secret about NBA draft picks that people don't tell you, there's a rule in the NBA that first rounders can't be traded away every year. So for LA to give New Orleans 3 first rounders will be over six years, going every other year. LA will have their own first rounder next year, and again two years later.

The other thing negotiated were a few swaps, New Orleans can pick which pick they use between theirs and LA's (presumably whichever is lower) . I bet New Orleans picks will be lower by the time those swaps come into play because New Orleans has made one good roster move in four years and that was resigning Davis to a max back then. I honestly think this is a steal for the Lakers.

THE DEATH OF WHATABURGER?

Whataburger sold a controlling interest of itself to a Chicago based firm for an undisclosed amount of money. People are upset and wondering why they sold at all and why not to a Texas based company? There's one simple reason for that, MONEY. You don't start a franchise to make people feel warm and fuzzy and you don't take money for goods and think, yeah I am not in this for a profit. I know it's cute and warm and fuzzy feeling to think that Whataburger is here for Texas and is "one of us" but which of us doesn't dream of cashing out on our hard work?

CONGRATS TORONTO

This one may be a little sports heavy but it's cool right? So a couple of things, first of all, shout out to Toronto Raptors for gambling on themselves and making the moves to get a couple pieces like Gasol and Leonard and going all in this year. The thing people will be talking about for a while though are the terrible injuries that have closed the book on the Golden State Warriors.

The torn Achilles of Kevin Durant won't keep him from opting out, and the blown knee of Klay Thompson won't stop Golden State from offering him the max, which means this time of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Livingston, and Looney will have to begin the process of rebuilding a team that will be relevant but never threatening. With the expected departure of Cousins and Durant and the extended absence of Thompson means by the time this team is ready for another run, Livingston and Iguodala will also likely be gone, this makes the team Curry, Green and Thompson with a new cast of characters and I don't think it will be enough.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED

This Friday, Joey Savage and I are going to get back to our Nerd Thug roots and playing Heroclix at Adventure Begins on 1488, come hang out with us and lets have a grand old time. I really love the game and it's a great fun thing to play, it's like chess with superpowers and who doesn't love superpowers?

I'm going to jump out and wish you guys a great Monday and remind everyone to be kind to each other and try a little harder to have a great day! I'm coming back Tuesday and we'll be bringing more good times your way.

Feel free to check out my digital short story The Wilson House or buy a shirt from Side Hustle Ts where some proceeds help people struggling with cancer or listen to Nerd Thug Radio. Thoughts, complaints, events and comments can be sent to corydlg@gmail.com.

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