Rockets Launch

Rockets Launch

Dunk Gate

James Harden’s “missed” dunk. Daniel Dunn, USA Today Sports
Daniel Dunn/USA Today Sports

A lot has already been said about the blown call on James Harden’s dunk against the San Antonio Spurs this week. The Rockets have formally protested to replay the last 7:02 of the game. It is highly unlikely the league will rule in the Rockets favor. It’s even more unlikely they overturn the result of the game, which is what I believe should happen.

Yeah, I know, that’s totally bonkers. However, what really upsets me about this situation is the lack of culpability by the league up to this point. In ALL NBA games, calls are frequently checked during timeouts and television breaks. Points are added and subtracted from the scoreboard ALL THE TIME. But in the case of Harden’s dunk, no such review was done.

The Rockets attempts to challenge the call were also rebuffed on the court for the inexplicable reason the Rockets didn’t challenge fast enough. Now when there is a common practice to review calls like this, why didn’t the league office do anything?

That is why I believe we should be awarded a win, though I realize it is obviously not going to happen. Still, I’d like to see the league show some kind of acknowledgement of a very obvious mistake.

Abso-Luka Mav-olous

One of the more exciting developments of this season is the resurgence of the Dallas Mavericks due to the play of Luka Doncic. While is certainly very impressive, I must say I bristle a bit at what I feel is TOO much attention being thrown his way.

James Harden has been playing at this level for more than three seasons now, and he can hardly get any recognition for his feats. Any attention always comes with some kind of shrug or backhanded remark about how he’s ruining the NBA. All this when Luka is essentially playing the same exact type of game.

Still, it will be nice to dust off the old Rockets/Mavs rivalry. It’s never been terribly heated, but with the Rockets becoming the league villain and the Mavs sporting burgeoning superstar who is so like Harden, the sparks are set to fly up and down I-45 in the NBA this season.

Clash of the Titans

While I obviously hope for the Rockets to make it to the NBA Finals, I must say I am slightly intrigued by the prospect of a Bucks/Lakers clash for the championship.

A matchup between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis would be a return of the classic center matchups of old. As a lifelong Rockets fan, I am always keen on the center position in basketball. Houston has been blessed with three Hall of Fame centers (Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming) in their history.

That’s part of the reason why I like the Rockets chances this season. Clint Capela gives the Rockets a great option to challenge both Antetokounmpo and Davis. There aren’t a lot of great centers in the league right now, and Capela is arguably the best center in the league not named Antetokounmpo or Davis. SIDEBAR: This post has helped me learn how to spell Antetokounmpo!

Rockets Launch

Rockets Launch

Oops, He Did It Again

AP Photo/ Michael Wyke
AP Photo/Michael Wyke

So, James Harden scored 60 points in 31 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re even taking a moment to truly admire his accomplishments. Look at this:

From @TommyBeer

The ten highest-scoring games of 2019:
1. James Harden: 61
2. James Harden: 61
3. James Harden: 60
4. Damian Lillard: 60
5. Devin Booker: 59
6. James Harden: 59
7. James Harden: 58
8. James Harden: 58
9. James Harden: 57
10. James Harden: 57

It’s very clear to me we are witnessing something truly special with James Harden. The numbers he is putting up are simply incredible. It is a testament to his talent fans and the media have almost become apathetic about it.

In fact, Saturday night’s fireworks were a blip on the sports news scene as the day was dominated by a number of Rivalry Week showdowns, including an unforgettable Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.

It’s all good, Harden doesn’t hold a grudge. We have another month or so before the country turns its attention to the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he goes for 50+ a couple more times before then.

The Great Experiment

A little more than a month into the season, it’s clear we can call the Great Experiment combining James Harden and Russell Westbrook a success. Going into this season, there were serious concerns around the league about how they would adjust their playing styles on the court.

Some were drooling over the prospect of opening a column about the Rockets with, “Houston, you have a problem.” Fortunately, James and Russ haven’t given them much to gripe about.

Harden is averaging 38.9 points a game, and has a legitimate chance to average 40 points a game over the course of a season. If anything, playing with Westbrook has made him better. And I LOVE watching Westbrook on the court for the Rockets. He brings a tenacity Rockets fans haven’t seen since the days of Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell.

Now, things aren’t perfect. There have been some lapses. Westbrook’s shooting has been a liability for a team whose success is dependent on knocking down 3’s with abandon.

The good news is they still have time and plent of room to improve. Eric Gordon has been sidelined with a knee injury, and will likely be out until the New Year. His return will give the Rockets another proven shooter. A shooter that would have been invaluable in a road loss to the LA Clippers.

All in all, I feel we can be very optimistic going into the rest of the 2019-2020 season. It’s also time to prepare for a renewed rivalry with the Dallas Mavericks. More on that next week.

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

While I am loathe to celebrate an injury of any player. I must admit I am relishing the current state of the Golden State Warriors. They are flailing with a very un-Warriorlike record of 4-17 dealing with a spate of injuries that can only be described as a Greek tragedy.

I wish them a speedy recovery. The NBA isn’t the same without them, and any Rockets playoff run will feel hollow if the Dubs aren’t vanquished on the road to a championship.

Besides, it would REALLY suck for the rest of the league if they land the #1 pick in next year’s draft a la the San Antonio Spurs when they drafted Tim Duncan. It might not be too early to start watching the college ranks for the prospective #1.