San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

Pacers have struggled since trading Danny Granger. Heat official: ‘Now you see why we didn’t trade’ Udonis Haslem.


The Pacers have gone through all kinds of turmoil following a strong start to the season that had them atop the Eastern Conference standings until just recently.

Paul George has struggled both on and off the court, Roy Hibbert has called out his teammates’ selfishness, and perhaps most importantly, the losses are piling up, with Indiana having won just seven times in its last 17 contests.

One might wonder if it can all be traced back to the deadline deal that saw the Pacers trade Danny Granger.

Chemistry is extremely fragile on any championship contender, and it goes beyond simple Xs and Os. Despite not really doing much since getting healthy, Granger was the team’s elder statesman, having been there for more than eight seasons and acting as a locker room leader for the team’s younger core players.

A Miami Heat official pointed to Indiana’s struggles as the reason they chose to keep their longest tenured player as the trade deadline passed.

From Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

Heat players have referred to the risks you run when reshuffling a contender so late in the season.

As one Heat official recently put it, “Now you see why we didn’t trade U.D.” …

How would that have gone over?

“That’s a tough question,” Mario Chalmers said, measuring his words. “U.D., besides Dwyane and Bron and CB, he is the heart and soul of this team. He is one of the captains, one of the leaders on this team. He sets a good example for everybody else. I don’t know. It wouldn’t have been a good thing.”

Haslem has found himself in the starting lineup as of late, and has been positively affecting the team’s net rating far more than Shane Battier or Greg Oden had been able to in their opportunities there this season. He’s remained ready, and Miami has needed him on the court when it didn’t look like that would be the case when the season first began.

It’s easy to pile on the Pacers for what sure seems like a mistake now, when Haslem is contributing and Indiana has fallen off a cliff since dealing Granger. But chemistry is an undeniable component to winning a an NBA title, and unless the Pacers prove that they can regain it come playoff time, the consensus will be that their midseason trade was extremely short-sighted.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.