If James Harden continues to play like he’s played in his first two games with the Rockets, the trade that brought him to Houston may eventually be seen as one of the most one-sided in NBA history.
It’s early, of course, and finances were the motivation in Oklahoma City, where Harden didn’t (and wouldn’t) have nearly the value he would on a team like the Rockes. In Houston, he could be the primary ball-handler and scoring option for a team that didn’t already have, say, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook taking up the bulk of those opportunities in the starting lineup.
Still, Harden has been fantastic in his first two starts, and his new career high of 45 points in Atlanta came on just 19 (!) field goal attempts.
Harden is in a perfect situation as a Rocket, playing alongside capable point guard Jeremy Lin, who put up 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out seven assists. Lin and Harden both played 40 minutes, which you’d think can’t be a regular occurrence over the course of an 82-game season, But early on, as the team is still forging its identity, why not?
Harden has the luxury of playing on or off the ball with Lin by his side, so when defenses eventually start throwing doubles at him to get the ball out of his hands, head coach Kevin McHale can design some sets to find other ways to get him the rock.
That’ll likely come sooner rather than later. For now, the Rockets went from a team that unconscionably blew up its competitive squad of a season ago to one that might be even better this year — and with Harden in the fold, a lot more fun to watch.
Mark Parker is CEO of Nike, a company that collaborated with West on the Air Yeezy before an unhappy West bolted for Adidas. Jordan, of course, is a Nike ally and known for the Jumpman logo on his brand.
The Spurs were reigning NBA champions, and the Suns were coming off a 61-win season. These teams were the class of the league.
They also had strong offensive identities – Gregg Popovich’s ball-movement-happy system in San Antonio and Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack in Phoenix. How would Kobe have fit? Now, that’s a great what-if – especially because both teams had the assets to create intriguing trade packages.
The Spurs could’ve built an offer around Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili, the Suns around Shawn Marion and/or Amar’e Stoudemire. Could you imagine Kobe and Tim Duncan or Kobe and Steve Nash in 2007? It wouldn’t have been anything like the over-the-hill version we saw in Los Angeles a few years later.
Of course, Kobe stuck with the Lakers, who traded for Pau Gasol and won a couple more titles. Kobe led them to those championships, and he deserves credit for staying the course.
But, no matter what Durant decides this summer, remember all players consider as many options as they have in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with someone leaving a job for a better one when he has the ability to do so.