The Westbrook game

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Timberwolves in Minnesota 131-124

When the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook in July, they knew what they were getting. There would be nights where he would score 28 points on 30 shots, turn the ball over 4 times, and look like an insane person. There would also be nights where he tallies 45 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal on good efficiency and absolutely carry Houston over the finish line. This is the Westbrook experience in a bottle and there's really no negotiating with it. It's a hell of a visual either way.

On a night where James Harden looked injured and miserable (12 points on 3 of 13 shooting from the field, 3 turnovers, and a plus-minus of -7), Westbrook took completely control of the offense and put on a clinic. Westbrook was keeping Clint Capela (18 points on 9 of 12 shooting) and shooters engaged (Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers combined for 43 points on 8 of 16 shooting from beyond the arc) while also scoring the ball with relative ease. It was as good as he looked in a regular season game all year and one of his better performances since his MVP season in 2016-17.

The Rockets are still well behind where they need to be defensively, but after the losing streak they had, a win like this matters a whole lot more than how it was carried out. Defensive ratings and point differentials be damned as they currently sit as the 6th seed in the Western Conference. At the moment, Houston needs to bag more of these victories before they refine the way they go about collecting them.

Star of the game: You won't find a stronger argument for what would be Russell Westbrook's ninth All-Star appearance than tonight. Westbrook was sensational, tallying a season-high 45 points, dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing 6 rebounds in the process on 16 of 27 shooting from the field and 13 for 13 shooting from the free throw line. In a game where James Harden was clearly battling a lower leg injury, Westbrook carried Houston over the finish line with easily his best game of the season. For all the rough games Westbrook will give you, it's important to remember that he has the capability to give you a night like this.

Honorable mention: There are a couple of candidates for second place tonight, but it'll ultimately have to go to Eric Gordon who scored 27 points on 8 of 19 shooting from the field, 6 of 13 shooting from three-point range, and 5 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. After scoring a season-high 25 points on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, Gordon's been on a little bit of a roll from beyond the arc. It could be a random hot stretch, but it's more likely the case that Gordon is rounding into season shape after returning from his right knee arthroscopy. He won't always give Houston nights like this, but it's nice to know that it's in his capabilities.

Key moment: The Rockets came out of the gates in the third quarter a bit slow defensively, giving up a 13-4 run to give the Timberwolves a 73-67 lead. After that, the Rockets came out of the timeout and went on a 9-3 run of their own to tie the game up at 76-76. Houston ended up building on their halftime lead by outscoring Minnesota 31-24 in the third quarter and Russell Westbrook scored or assisted 19 of those 31 points.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Denver on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to take on the Nuggets.

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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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