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.
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.
He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.
Butler, on if LBJ is toughest guard: "If I say he is, then next time I play Durant, he's going to try to score 60. You're not gonna get me."
“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”
Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).
Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.
Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.