Not great, but solid win

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Kings on the road 113-104

This wasn't a great win by any means for the Rockets, but it was definitely solid. Houston's fast-pace and high scoring effort put the Kings in a hole early on and the Rockets played decent enough defense to hold off a Sacramento run.

Was it pretty? No, but it didn't have to be.

As the few several games have been, this was yet another game that confirmed what we've seen from Russell Westbrook the past couple weeks is real - he's still a legitimate NBA All-Star with the ability to rise to higher levels on occasion. This might sound like a silly thing to confirm, but his early season returns combined with his last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder gave Rockets' fans appropriate fear that perhaps the Westbrook of a few years ago simply doesn't exist anymore. Tonight, he showed again how he could still be a pretty nice second option on a potential title contender.

De'Aaron Fox was relentless against Houston, tallying 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists on 13 of 31 shooting from the field. Fox was the main driving force that kept Sacramento within striking distance until late in the fourth quarter. Trevor Ariza also fared well against his former team, logging 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal on 4 of 8 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range.

You'd like to see Houston sustain a lead so their starters can get rest late in the fourth quarter, but this was a solid win for the team, nonetheless.

Star of the game: This was a run of the mill James Harden game in that he had 35 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 10 of 19 shooting from the field, 4 of 11 shooting from three-point range, and 10 of 12 shooting from the free throw line. I guess we have to accept this statline as the new normal for Harden. Perhaps pedestrian by his standards this season. In all seriousness, Harden was very good and there's not much else to say here.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook keeps adding to his collection of very good and efficient games leading one to the natural conclusion that the run he's on may not be a fluke. Westbrook logged 28 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal on 10 of 22 shooting from the field, 3 of 4 shooting from three-point range, and 5 of 6 shooting from the free throw line. Ever since he's healed up from the summer knee surgery he received and his finger injuries, Westbrook has performed as the true number two option to Harden that they hoped they'd get once they made the trade.

Key moment: The third quarter is really where the Rockets made their money, outscoring the Kings 32-22 and shooting 13 of 21 from the field (61.9) and 4 of 6 from three-point range (66.7%). Westbrook and Harden led the charge, combining for 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field. This gave Houston a 97-79 lead, enough to hold on and win it in the end despite the Kings surging back in the 4th quarter.

Up next: The Rockets travel to San Francisco at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday to play the Golden State Warriors.

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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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