Firstly, let me preface this by saying that firmly I believe that James Harden is the most transcendent offensive talent the NBA has ever seen. Inside and out, the man is a bucket getting machine. When it comes to pure offense, few players exist on the same level that Harden has sown his legacy. I love the man so much that I kiss the James Harden bobblehead sitting on my nightstand every night before I go to bed. This is not going to be your run-of-the-mill Harden slander; there are other publications for that. Rather, consider this piece a break-up text to the man who put my Houston Rockets firmly in the national spotlight.
Keeping it Interesting
Basketball is, at its’ core, a team sport. Harden is no stranger to this philosophy. James Harden has been a league-wide leader in assists ever since Daryl Morey schemed him away from OKC. However, towards the end of his tenure with the Rockets I rarely felt the impulse to tune into a Rockets game. Why, you might ask? Simple. I already knew how the game was going to play out. Wins and losses aside, I simply grew weary of the James Harden brand of basketball.
With Harden on the floor I realized that I was inevitably going to get 1 of 5 things on the offensive end: 1) A step back, 2) a hard drive, 3) free throws, 4) a kick-out to the perimeter, or 5) an alley-oop. Rinse and repeat for 48 minutes and that’s the ballgame folks! If the object was to win, sure we won our fair share with this mindset, because after all, why would you shake up what works? Eight consecutive playoff berths attest that, to a degree, this was a winning formula. However, as a basketball fan, I was hungry for more than just bread and butter. Yeah you can fill up on breadsticks at Olive Garden but at some point you’re gonna want to crack open that menu and order some pasta.
That was the predicament I found myself in. I wanted Fettucinni Alfredo, but the James Harden menu was just pages and pages and pages of breadsticks. The cast around him – CP, Westbrook, Ariza, Covington, PJ, Dwight, Gordon, etc – were all just frustrated waiters relishing the chance to hand me a different menu.
I love James Harden, but oh my goodness his greatness got boring to watch. More than that though, it became predictable.
The Definition of Insanity
Insanity is doing the exact… same f*cking thing over and over again expecting… s*it to changeVaas, Far Cry 3
Woo-wee just typing that out hurt my soul.
It became quite clear to me after that fateful night that the Houston Rockets would never reach the summit with our then-current mountain-climbing philosophy of iso layups, stepback 3’s, and kickouts.
And what do you know, I was right.
This is not all Harden’s fault. The coaching staff and the front office were equally complicit in sending the Rockets up the mountain without the gear needed for the month long trek up to Championship Summit. Our team set out to free-solo the mountain because it had been working on the lesser peaks that were the regular season, but the playoffs proved a lot more difficult than your average 14’er. Chris Paul proved to be great sherpa during that legendary run, but alas, sherpas can only take you so far up the mountain before their hamstrings blow out.
What did we do after that run? We doubled-down on our free-solo approach. Now look at us 3 years later. D’antoni is gone, CP is gone, and Morey too has left us. I would mention Russ’s coming and going, but his tenure on the Rockets honestly felt like a fever dream that I just woke up from. But strange as it may sound, I am happy that things played out as they have.
I am happy for James Harden, because at this point, him getting a championship ring with the Nets will cement just how strong this Houston team was during his time here. It’s not a ring, but hopefully we will be regarded in the same way people look back at the Jazz team that took Jordan and the Bulls to 7 games.
I am happy as a Rockets fan too. Despite our place in the rankings, I can look forward every game night to 48 minutes of Christian Wood’s baked ziti, John Wall’s stromboli, and Demarcus Cousins’ famous eggplant parmesan. After 8 years of breadsticks, I’m happy to report that I’m eating pretty good over here as a fan.
Because at the end of the day, it’s a business. It’s easy to get swallowed up in team loyalty and forget that these are just guys playing a sport that they love. Harden’s exodus helped me come to terms with that simple fact. Now you may call this coping, and in some ways it is. But I am happy to see James Harden balling out with a smile on his face again and I’m happy I can watch a Houston Rocket’s game uncertain of how it will play out. Plus, if he weren’t traded than Caris LeVert may have never undergone that mandatory physical that revealed the life-threatening blood clot in his leg, and that dude is FUN to watch.
It’s a win-win for me.
Thanks for the draft picks James.