LOOKING BACK

What did the world look like the last time there was an NBA Finals without Lebron James?

Lebron James has made it to the Finals for eight straight years. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Well it looks like this year may very well see the end of the Warriors-Cavaliers Finals repeat cycle. While it remains to be seen if the Rockets victory in Game 2 a mere flash in the pan or sign of things is to come, the Cavs look like they’re toast.  If the Cavs do not escape their current 0-2 hole to the Celtics this will be the first time since 2010 that the NBA Finals will not feature LeBron James. For the arithmetically challenged that’s eight straight years. If you include the one Finals trip he had before going to Miami, LeBron has ended his season in the Finals for 60% of his career.  So, with that in mind lets dust off the flux capacitor, hop in the DeLorean and see what life was like the last time an NBA season didn’t end with LeBron in the Finals.

2010 in Houston Sports (Spoiler: It was pretty bad all around)

Houston Rockets

Record: 42-40.

Notes of significance: Traded Tracy McGrady mid-season.

Remember these guys: Aaron Brooks, Chase Buddinger, The Chuck Wagon, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin.

Houston Astros

Record: 76-86.

Notes of Significance: Traded away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

Remember these guys: Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Geoff Blum.

Houston Texans

Record: 6-10.

Notes of Significance: None – Of course not, it’s the Texans.

Remember these guys: Kevin Walter, Amobi Okoye, Antonio Smith, Vonta Leach, Steve Slaton.

Other 2010 Things:

  • Top Billboard Song of 2010 – Tik Tok by Ke$ha.

  • Top Grossing Movie of 2010 – Toy Story 3 (You are a liar if you contend you didn’t at least tear up in this movie).

  • Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • The iPad is released.

  • Obama Care Passed.

  • First real-world Bitcoin transaction. Two Pappa Johns pizzas purchased for 10,000 Bitcoin. Today that would be worth about $83,000,000.

  • When the name Harvey was mentioned you either thought of Steve or Dent.

Eight straight years in the finals is a most impressive feat, but if the Warriors make it back this year Steph Curry will already be halfway to that mark, and by the looks of things he could actually meet or exceed it.

 

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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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