James Harden says he’ll be active in recruiting free agents to join him in Houston

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The Rockets showed plenty of signs of being a legitimate playoff team for seasons to come, both with the way they reached the playoffs in James Harden’s first year in Houston, and with the effort they gave in forcing their first round playoff series with the Thunder to reach six games before ultimately falling short.

Houston has some nice complementary pieces in Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, and even Patrick Beverley. But Harden, coming from a Thunder team that had multiple superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, knows as well as anyone that it will take more firepower for his current team to reach that next level.

That’s probably why he’s willing to be a part of the recruiting process for potential free agents this summer.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

On his way out of the building, furthermore, Harden told ESPN.com that he intends to be an active member of the Rockets’ recruiting efforts this summer.

“Hell, yeah,” Harden said. “There’s a lot of good options out there.”

Asked specifically about the Lakers’ Howard, with the Rockets widely regarded as the team with the best shot of stealing him away from L.A., Harden broke into a smile and added: “Maybe. Possibly.”

This is no surprise, obviously, considering the fact that Harden had said back in December that he’d already begun the recruiting process.

But it has to make the organization happy that they invested in this particular superstar. You may remember John Wall of the Wizards taking the polar opposite of Harden’s position when Washington’s season ended in mid-April.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.