Time to lean on the other guys

The James Harden streak is over, and that is a good thing for the Rockets

Kevin C. Cox

I'm glad it's over.

There. I said it.

I'm glad James Harden's streak of 30 point games ended on Monday night.

Sorry Hardenites or whatever James Harden fans are called.

I was sick of it. It's a nice personal achievement but basketball is a team sport. And it was boring. Iso ball sucks. I hated it during the Steve and Cuttino days and I hate it now.

You can't tell me that a team with one of the best point guards of all time can't move the ball around and get guys open looks. Case in point, the Warriors game. Without James, Chris Paul had 23 points and 17 assists and led a team that was overmatched talent-wise to a 118-112 win.

I'm going to divide this season into three parts. The crappy start to the season, the #unguardabletour season and the gang is back together season.

The crappy start to the season was well, crappy. Coming off the 65 win season they began this one 12-14 which was inexplicable. They just plain sucked. It's a time I would rather not dwell on. It's best to leave these things in a dark place in the deep recesses of your mind and never touch them again.

Then there was the #unguardabletour. It has its place in Rockets history. I'm not going to put it up there with all time Rockets achievements. It was a great individual achievement. James got a bunch of national media attention which was nice. They were 21-11 during that stretch which was good too but not spectacular. They did have a bunch of injuries which meant they had to rely on James to carry the load. He did.

Those days are over and they are healthy again playing better basketball. Since the All-Star break and the return of Clint Capela and the resurgence of Chris Paul they look different. They look cohesive offensively. They look like a winner and they're doing it with James struggling, further proof that they are better playing team basketball as opposed to iso ball.

The win over the Warriors without James was eye opening. No they're not better without James but they have proven this past week that they are not nearly as reliant on him as was previously thought.

In their last three games they beat the Warriors without James and they beat the Hawks and Hornets while James was less than stellar. These past two games while the Rockets were scoring 119 and 118 points James has shot just 34% from the field and under 10% from 3. He's made just 1 of his last 21 three-point attempts. That's bad. Real bad.

Yet the other guys are picking him up. Against the Hornets the other guys shot 52%. Against the Hawks 46%. That's really good. This notion that James has to do it all himself has got to change. He doesn't, not with a heathy supporting cast. They can make shots if you put them in position and give them opportunities to make shots. When you only get a couple shots a game it's hard to get into any kind of rhythm. The more shots you get the better the chance you'll make them.

Plus it's just more fun to watch. James dribbling out the shot clock at the top of the key is brutal. It's not going to end but they can cut back on it and let Chris Paul drive and distribute. He's making $40 million a year for a reason.

I'm not saying they're last year's team. They're different. They're different than they were two weeks ago. And that's a good thing.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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