Victory atlast

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Nuggets in Houston 121-105

Against a depleted Denver Nuggets squad, the Houston Rockets attained their first team victory since January 11th. Although Denver was missing Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., this was an important win for the Rockets. They kept their spirits high throughout this losing streak, but it wasn't hard to see that they were spiraling.

"God I hope so," responded Mike D'Antoni when asked if the Rockets could build off this win. "We had energy and it starts on the defensive end. We were able to run."

The Rockets were able to sustain a consistent effort on the defensive glass after struggling for a while in no small part due to Russell Westbrook (10 defensive rebounds, 16 total). Apparently, Westbrook had been downplaying his effort on the glass and allowing Clint Capela to grab them in an effort to better acclimate to the team. However, the Rockets talked as a team and Westbrook voluntarily said he would return to his old rebounding ways to try and resolve the growing defensive rebounding problems.

"I've been BS'ing, kind of leaving it up to Clint [Capela] when that's a huge part of my game and I'm going to stay locked in on that for sure," said Westbrook postgame. "This whole process has been big for me. I'm trying to figure out where I make the most impact when my team needs it. Coach emphasized that rebounding was down and that's a huge part of my game and I feel like I'm the best at that in my position."

If the Rockets can consistently get this version of Russell Westbrook (28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals), James Harden (27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals), and Eric Gordon (25 points, 6 of 8 shooting from three-point range), this team could be in a much better position than where it's at right now and they know that.

Star of the game: James Harden's statline may not pop off the boxscore, but it was pretty darn efficient. Harden tallied 27 points, 5 rebound, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 6 of 13 shooting from the field, 13 of 15 shooting from the free throw line, and 2 of 6 from three-point range. This was a statline you'd see from Harden in 2015, not 2020. Knowing his own shooting struggles, Harden kept his head down and attacked the basket for most of the night, limiting his attempts from beyond the arc.

Honorable mention: If Russell Westbrook were more efficient tonight, he'd be the star of the game. Westbrook logged an impressive 28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block, but it was on 11 of 25 shooting from the field. Nevertheless, Westbrook's energy kept Houston firmly in the lead for most of the night and he found guys like Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker for open three-pointers all night (combined 8 of 14 from three).

Key moment: The Rockets really took this game by the throat in the second quarter, limiting Denver to a measly 14 points on 7 of 19 shooting from the field (36.8%). It was by far the best quarter of defense the Rockets have played in January.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.

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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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