HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: An amazing sports year in Houston with more to come

Has it already been a year since Houston hosted the Super Bowl? CultureMap

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Has it really been 12 months? Or 12 minutes?

As you watch the mittens-and-caps-and-ice sculptures run-up to Super Bowl LII Sunday in Minneapolis, you could swear that it was really, honestly, just the other day that downtown Houston was transformed into a nine-day Super Bowl LI wonderland known as Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon.

There was live music, great food, the NFL experience and even a reality trip to Mars – all tucked into a footprint the size of 13 football fields in and around Discovery Green.

Yes, time flies. People are still talking about Lady Gaga’s spectacular halftime show and Tom Brady’s even more spectacular – and historic - Super Bowl comeback.

Best Super Bowl ever as Brady and his New England Patriots came from 25 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime? Maybe so.

Biggest comeback, check. First overtime ever, check. A record fourth Super Bowl MVP – and a bunch of records – for Brady and the team.

Best ever? If not, it’s on a very, very short list.

It’s been a blur since then, right?

The city weathered Hurricane Harvey, then rallied around #HoustonStrong and its boys of fall – the Houston Astros – who took the city on a wild ride on the way to a seven-game World Series and their first championship. A few weeks later, the Rockets took off, and thanks to Chris Paul and James Harden, they’re looking like a team that just might make a title run of its own.

Now here we are in early February once again.

Brady is back for another Super Bowl run – this one against the Philadelphia Eagles – and everyone is wondering if he can win a record sixth title. He already shares the record of five with Charles Haley.

And Houston? It’s prepping for yet another big sports event – the inaugural Houston Sports Awards, February 8 at the Hilton Americas.

The city is still in Harvey recovery mode – and will be for years. We’ve survived a lot of ice and a little snow and sports fans are prepping for spring training and another World Series run, marveling at the Rockets and wondering if a healthy duo of J.J. Watt and DeShaun Watson will make a difference for the Texans in 2018.

But come Thursday, everyone’s attention will turn to the square block surrounding the Hilton Americas when Houston will usher in a new tradition – an eye-popping night celebrating Houston’s biggest sports stars.

The area will be transformed into a multiple-carpet, star-studded entrance for the gala and dinner. The event, a dream of Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke for more than a decade, will draw more than 1,000 people – including most of the city’s sports royalty – to the downtown area for the sold-out event.

The night honors Houston’s legendary trio of 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – and there will be 10 other awards given out, seven of them with Oscar-style envelope reveals.

This is just year one, but, trust us, by the end of the night, it will leave a major impact on Houston and Houston sports.

In just two months, sports will collide when the Major League Baseball season opens and golf turns its attention to a tradition unlike any other - the  Masters in Augusta, Ga. And, of course, the NBA playoffs are taking shape.

At that point, people will think back to the night they watched those 34s come together and share an incredibly special bond with each other and the city.

Best inaugural event ever? Maybe so.

No matter what they decide, they’ll ask if it has really been two months? Or two minutes?

And they’ll wonder what’s next.

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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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