James Harden intent on winning title with Rockets in wake of new deal

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden never wants to leave Houston and is intent on bringing another NBA title to the city the Californian now considers home.

And the Rockets are doing everything possible to make sure the Beard gets exactly what he wants.

The clearest evidence of that came a week ago when they signed him to the biggest contract in league history: a four-year, “supermax” extension that guarantees $228 million over the next six seasons.

“I know where I want to retire ultimately and I know where I want to win a championship,” Harden said Saturday. “Everything is going to happen in Houston and that’s the reason I’m here forever.”

Since orchestrating the trade that brought Harden to Houston from Oklahoma City in 2012, general manager Daryl Morey has known he had a cornerstone player to build a team around. To him, shelling out that much money to keep the 27-year-old off the free agent market until the 2022-23 season was a no-brainer.

“Some of our decisions are hard. This one’s easy,” Morey said. “We’d do more if we could. This was the most they allow us to do.”

The contract extension followed the Rockets’ trade for nine-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul late last month, giving Harden another superstar to help chase Houston’s first title since the Rockets won two in a row in 1994-95.

There have been questions about how the two will fit together in Houston after Harden had the finest season of his career while playing point guard in first-year coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. But Harden isn’t worried about that.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen anything like this before,” he said. “Two guys that can create and facilitate and just do things with the ball that nobody’s done from the one position and the shooting guard position. So it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Harden finished second in MVP voting last season behind Russell Westbrook after ranking second in the league with 29.1 points per game and first with 11.2 assists. He had 64 double-doubles last year after combining for just 67 in the first seven seasons of his career, and notched 22 triple-doubles after getting just nine total before last season.

“I’ve coached a lot of people and watched a lot of games and the stuff that he did day in and day out was incredible,” D’Antoni said. “Now I’m just so excited that he’s going to be here for a long time.”

Harden’s brilliant season ended with a thud when the Rockets were eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in a 39-point loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. Harden didn’t attempt a shot until halfway through the second quarter of the blowout and finished with 10 points to tie a season low.

That loss still weighs on Harden, who shouldered the blame for the defeat in the hours after the game.

“For sure it motivates me,” he said. “Of course it wasn’t how we wanted it to end … but that’s what life is about. You get tested and you go through certain things where things don’t happen your way … you have to sit back, look at how you can be better and go out there and just be better at it. And if you fail, do it again.”

Harden is excited about his new deal and humbled to have signed the richest contract in NBA history. However, he insists that all those zeros in his bank account will be hollow if he doesn’t take the Rockets to the next level.

“Money is cool … but it doesn’t really mean anything without holding that championship up,” Harden said. “So that’s what we’re working toward. That’s why I’m in the gym every single day and I won’t stop until I get it.”

 

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade on time they faced off 1-on-1: “We was out there killing each other”

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LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are good friends, they go together like peanut butter and jelly. They and their families hang out and ride banana boats together in the off-season.

They are also both incredibly competitive men.

So you had to figure they went 1-on-1 against each other at some point. It happened, once. Wade and LeBron talked about it on Channing Frye’s Road Trippin’ podcast(transcription via the USA Today).

James: “We played 1-on-1 one time in our whole life, and it was during the finals. Eastern Conference finals 2010 (they meant the 2010-11 season, that ECF was in May 2011). Our first year.”

Wade: “It was more-so to set a precedent for our teammates because we got our ass kicked the game before, Game 1 by Chicago. They tore us.”

James: “MVP Rose tore our ass up in Chicago, and we came in the next day, we was like we need to set the tone, so we was out there killing each other playing 1-on-1.”

Wade: “We never finished.”

James: “We never finished. We got to the point where (head coach Erik Spoelstra) blew the whistle, like bring it in.”

Wade: “Everybody was just watching us. We was going at it. We competitive, we was going at it, but we was setting a tone for this is how it’s gotta go. You gotta be able to go at this. We’re two of the best players in this game. We going at each other in the Eastern Conference finals right now. We out there killing each other, and this is what ya’ll better do tomorrow. Because we got beat on the boards by 20-something and we have to come with it, and we won four in a row.”

A 2011 Heat practice? There has to be video of this somewhere.

Miami did win that Eastern Conference Finals, but LeBron and Wade should have gone at it again during the NBA Finals, where the Heat lost to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.

Report: Rockets’ Luc Mbah a Moute expected to miss 2-3 weeks

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The Rockets’ rotation is excellent, and their deep bench is lacking.

That’s part of the reason Luc Richard Mbah a Moute posted a ridiculous +57 in a 30-point win earlier this season.

But Houston will miss the forward for a while after he injured his shoulder against the Hornets yesterday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s first inclination might be to shorten his rotation. He should mostly resist it.

Home-court advantage is important, and P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza can play more power forward (with Eric Gordon absorbing more minutes at small forward). But it’s also better to play Troy Williams more now than to wear down the players Houston will rely on in the playoffs, when D’Antoni will surely keep his rotation tight.

PBT Podcast: Early trade deadline breakdown with Dan Feldman

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The NBA’s trade market did not collapse after the Jahlil Okafor trade.

There’s more to come, but with the trade deadline is less than two months away, we have more questions than answers. DeAndre Jordan very likely could be on the move from the Clippers (and Lou Williams, too). But what is Memphis going to do about Mark Gasol? New Orleans with DeMarcus Cousins? Oklahoma City with Paul George? And if any of those guys are available, who is a buyer? Cleveland? Milwaukee? Portland?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down the high end of the trade market, plus talk about other guys who could be on the move — maybe Nikola Mirotic from Chicago, and what about someone like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Charlotte — before Feb. 8 gets here. The last couple of trade deadlines have been interesting, but will we see a move that changes the landscape of the NBA playoffs in a meaningful way?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Joel Embiid calls out Karl Anthony-Towns’ defense during Instagram trash talk

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Joel Embiid often gloats on Instagram after 76ers wins.

Of course he did after Philadelphia beat Minnesota on Tuesday, specifically calling attention to this move on Karl-Anthony Towns (and this 76ers fan custom):

Embiid:

Towns commented:

That caption was as trash as your picture quality

Embiid replied:

Better quality than your defense

Embiid insisted it’s all in good fun.

Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

https://twitter.com/JCameratoNBCS/status/941395953113804800

I’m not sure Towns is having as much fun as Towns. But I know this:

Embiid had a valid point.