Every-Thing Sports

Why those quick to crown Luka over Harden need some perspective

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Luka Doncic is the new "it" guy in the NBA Bubble, and it's easy to see why. He's been leading his Mavs team to a very competitive 2-2 tie against one of the Western Conference contenders in the L.A. Clippers. He put up a 40-point triple double in game four and hit the game-winner at the buzzer in overtime. The 21-year-old Slovenian is a superstar that's put the league on notice. After a really good rookie campaign (21/8/6 pts/reb/ast), he followed it up this season by damn near averaging a triple double (29/9/9 pts/reb/ast), started the All Star game, and routinely put the Mavs on his back leading them to the seven seed in the West.

While he draws comparisons to some of the game's best playmakers, his game resembles a current star who's not as beloved: James Harden. At 6'7 and 230lbs, Luka is taller and a tad bit heavier than Harden (especially after Harden's recent weight loss). With a bigger frame, and a willingness to mix it up, Luka is a better rebounder. Luka is more of a true point guard and Harden is more of a scorer as a combo hybrid, but both are good distributors of the ball as they each have never averaged less than six assists per game in their time as primary ball handlers. The step-back jumper is what Luka has used as his go-to offensive weapon. It's something he has clearly patterned after Harden, especially given Harden's success with the move over the last few years.

The question at hand: Why is Luka celebrated, while Harden is maligned? Luka has a game very similar to Harden's. He has even taken one of Harden's patented moves and incorporated into his repertoire. Let's take a look into the differences between these two superstars:

Lukability

On the surface, Luka is a smiling and friendly European baller who seems to be very engaging. Harden is perceived as aloof and not as open with the media. Harden's tone when talking is monotone and comes off as filling an obligation, while Luka seems to relish the spotlight. Harden's penchant for getting after refs for calls (whining and/or flopping) makes him less likable. Couple that with the fact that Luka has only been in the league for two years and hasn't managed to alienate anyone, adds to his likability.

Clutch gene

As I stated above, Luka went for a 40-point triple double and hit the game winner at the buzzer to tie his playoff series at two. Harden went for 32/8/15 in a three point loss that tied the Rockets' series with the Thunder at two games a piece. He couldn't close out the game on offense or help make a key stop on defense in game four. Not to mention his past playoff failures, it's easy to see why Luka is being seen as more clutch so early on in his career than Harden has been.

Recency bias

Luka is the flavor of the month right now. He's like a "new" pair of retro Jordans that have been re-released for the 3194th time. It's an almost carbon copy of something we've seen before, but it has a different wrapping, packaging, and millennial twist to it. Food products often re-package themselves as "new and improved." In reality, there's been a slight change from the original, but the marketing has been ramped up to the max to boost sales. That's what I see here between Luka and Harden. Luka is the "new and improved" Frosted Flakes only because they've figured out how to make the "old" formula (Harden) taste better with recent advancements in the science behind making it.

I love basketball. I grew up playing, studying, and watching the sport. I'm not saying Luka is better than Harden, or vice versa. That is an opinion-based narrative for each person to make. Personally, I'd take Luka over Harden in most cases, depending on the makeup of the rest of the roster. But that's just me. Call me a hater all you want. Deep down, you and I both know he has something special about him that Harden doesn't. I harken back to one of my favorite episodes of Chapelle's Show when Charlie Murphy (RIP) did his True Hollywood Stories and spoke of meeting Rick James. In the sketch, Charlie said something like Rick had an aura he hadn't seen in other famous people before. Luka has that aura. Harden is special, but he doesn't have an aura. And that's where the comparison ends.

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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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