James Harden's MVP Cred Is Legit, Sustainable

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Photo by Groovehouse
Harden might be the MVP this season, but is it something he can sustain?
In watching the Golden State Warriors dismantle the Rockets twice in a week last week, it was difficult to make a case for James Harden as the presumptive league MVP if for no other reason than both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson seem to have good reason to consider themselves favorites despite being on the same team. Still, Harden's MVP credibility is real.

Prior to his team's loss in Houston Wednesday, former Rocket turned traitor Maverick Chandler Parsons said his former teammate is the league's best. "For sure. He's the best player in basketball right now," he said of Harden. "The things he's doing are incredible. The scouting report is focused in on stopping him and you see he's still getting 30 a game. It's impressive."

But there is more to Harden's rising star even if you set his league-leading scoring average to the side. His defense has radically improved, no doubt owed to a much more vigorous commitment to that end of the floor, and he is shouldering the load of not just scoring, but facilitating shots for his teammates, something he is doing in bunches given that he is one of only two non-point guards among the league's top 20 in assists (Lebron James is the other).

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Cougars' Bad Offense Not Quite As Bad As Rice's Bad Offense

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Brian Reading via Wikimedia Commons
Hofheinz Pavilion, where the game of basketball went to die Wednesday night
The Houston Cougars and Rice Owls are bad basketball teams. Both teams struggle to score. Both teams have difficulties shooting the ball. They're turnover prone. It can be difficult watching them play games, and when it's like it was Wednesday night, when the two faced off at Hofheinz Pavilion, it can feel like the game of basketball has been set back 50 years.

The Cougars (8-12) got the 59-48 win over the Owls (6-13) to snap an eight game losing streak. But it was an ugly game, one with a 22-20 halftime score that saw both teams shoot 37-percent from the floor for the half, brick shot after shot, and throw away pass after pass. The Cougars were the least worst team of the night, but watching the game, it was easy to see how the Cougars had lost eight straight conference games. And if not for the unexpected strong play of the UH bench which outscored the Rice bench 17-2, UH would probably have faced a ninth straight loss.

Both coaches were brutally honest after the game. Words like "ugly," "disappointing," "passive," "challenged," and "unacceptable" were freely expressed by both coaches. UH coach Kelvin Sampson liked his team's effort. Rice's coach Mike Rhoades didn't like his team's effort and thought his guys were awful. Sampson didn't think his guys were awful, he just thinks they're challenged.

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The Owls Are Tired of Rebuilding, They Want to Win Now

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The Owls are tired of rebuilding and want to win now
There's a new attitude about Rice sports. It started with the baseball team several years ago. And it's spreading with the football team. It's no longer enough to be competitive. It's no longer enough to get the moral victory. No more of the perpetual rebuilding process. Rice sports teams are now expected to win games. Even the men's basketball team.

Mike Rhoades doesn't want to hear about rebuilding plans. The new basketball coach of the Owls expects his team to win, and he expects his team to win now. The team's undersized, and it's undermanned. The guys aren't as talented as many of the players on opposing teams, and they're not quite skilled enough to play the type of game that Rhoades eventually hopes the Owls can play -- an uptempo, pressing game -- but he's not willing to listen to excuses.

The Owls are 6-12 on the season (3-4 in conference play) and lost to Louisiana Tech by a 58-45 score on Saturday night. It was an ugly, sloppy game. Neither team shot better than 45-percent. The Owls hit only 32.6-percent of its shots for the night (an ugly 5-of-19 from behind the three point line). Toss in 18 Rice turnovers and seven missed free throws, and there was almost zero chance the Owls would the game. Louisiana Tech is 15-5 on the season (6-1 in conference) is one of the best teams in Conference USA, so Rice hanging in and staying close could be seen as a victory. But that's not how Rhoades looks at it. His team was sloppy and being close just isn't good enough.

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Houston Rockets Valued By Forbes At Over 1.2 Billion Dollars

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In 2015, there is at least one immutable certainty in the sports business world -- if you're an NBA owner, business is good.

Less than four years ago, as the NBA was going through a summer of lockout and months of arduous negotiations hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement, the song from the NBA owners was one of financial strife, with claims that a third of the teams in the league (at least) were losing money, in large part because of a system of signing and paying players that led to owners being unable to protect themselves from their worst enemy -- themselves.

Despite a salary cap system that kept the salaries of the most marketable players capped at relatively reasonable levels, many owners more than ate up whatever benefit they were getting from muted superstar salaries by overspending on mid-level, highly replaceable, oftentimes journeyman players.

A new CBA didn't completely eradicate bad decisions, but it certainly minimized their impact, and a system which saw the players' percentage of basketball-related income reduced (from 57 percent to 50 percent) was the first in a series of events that have led to a boom period in franchise values.

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Rockets Keep Winning, but Tough Road Lies Ahead

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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As good as the Rockets have been, they must now be even better.
At the beginning of this oddly scheduled six game stretch -- five on the road with one game at home right in between two games in New York City...thanks NBA schedulers -- it appeared the Rockets would have a chance to make some hay, as they say, with a rather tepid run of mostly Eastern Conference cream puffs. After a tough loss in Chicago, they won in Cleveland to a Lebron-less Cavs team that has been struggling even with King James, and followed that up with three straight victories including Monday night's stomping of the Brooklyn Nets.

They will face one more also ran in the Orlando Magic on Wednesday before digging into one of the toughest stretches of the 2014-15 campaign as they close in on the literal halfway point of the season. In the five games following the Magic, they face the Thunder, who have been mediocre as of late but remain incredibly dangerous, the Western Conference leading Warriors and the hapless Pacers at home. That is followed up with games in Oakland against Golden State and at the surging Phoenix Suns.

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The Sports World Reacts To The Death Of ESPN's Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

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By Alan Rose (Stu and Alan) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks ago on the Monday Night Football pregame show on ESPN, Suzy Kolber was sitting in for Stuart Scott hosting at the onsite desk. I can't recall which former players she was sitting with (likely some permutation of Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Ray Lewis), but at the end of the segment, just before kickoff, she had the crew come out to the desk to join them.

At that point, Kolber sent tearful wishes and prayers to Scott, then the whole lot of ESPNers joined hands and raised their arms to salute to the longtime personality, who had been battling cancer on and off for seven years.

It was at that point that you knew that Scott's health situation, the severity of which he did his best to shield from his viewing audience (save a very revealing speech at the ESPY's in accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award), was grave.

On Sunday morning, Stuart Scott passed away in a Hartford, CT area hospital at age 49.

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Some (More Than Likely Wrong) Sports Predictions for 2015

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The year 2015 brings some bad news for Craig Biggio fans.
Welcome to the second day of 2015. It's that time that I make my predictions for what's going to happen in the upcoming months. Most of these will be wildly wrong, but who knows. Every now and then I actually get something right. So...

10. Jadeveon Clowney tears his ACL on his first play back on NRG Stadium turf. The Texans still refuse to acknowledge any problems with the pallet system. The next game, J.J. Watt tears his ACL and must miss the entire season. At this point, the NRG Stadium turf is immediately ripped out and replaced by the rotting astroturf sitting inside the Astrodome.

9. The Rice Owls win Conference USA, the second time in three seasons the football team has pulled this off. The Houston Cougars, under new head coach Tom Herman, win eight games and look to be a vastly improved team with high-powered offense and an attacking defense.

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Countdown to King of Content 2014: 3. Daryl Morey

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Darylmorey01" by Morbidthoughts - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Back in October 2012, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey managed to flip the remaining carcass of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a first round pick that would eventually become center Steven Adams for James Harden. Harden would become an All-Star and may be the current frontrunner for the MVP of the league.

Naturally, after the 2012-2013 season, the question for Morey was "How do you top that?"

Well, he topped that by making all the right moves, moving all the right contracts and leveraging every internal asset within the organization to lure center Dwight Howard from the Lakers to the Rockets, making Dwight the first All-Star ever to willingly leave LA in his prime.

Again, when 2013-2014 ended with a Damian Lillard kill shot, the people said, "Now what do you do to top that, Daryl?"

It's that chase, every chess move that got made, and ultimately the big moves the team missed on that drove Daryl Morey and the Rockets' roster all the way up to No. 3 on the King of Content countdown for 2014...

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4 Reasons to Worry, 4 Reasons for Optimism for Rockets

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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The good and the bad for the Rockets in 2015.
It is the nature of sports fans to be concerned most of the time, particularly those of us who grew up in Houston and suffered the pain of brutal losses time and time again. For this year's Houston Rockets, there are good reasons not to trust their stellar record thus far, despite injury setbacks. Still, that record and new Rockets Corey Brewer and Josh Smith should leave fans rightfully hopeful.

As we get closer to the season's mid-point, it is worth taking a look at some of the legitimate reasons for worry and things that should make us all feel good about the 2014-15 season.

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Countdown to King of Content 2014: 7. Donald Sterling

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s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Donald Sterling
So when is a punishment not really a punishment?

I think there are a few instances that are potential answers to this question. When your significant other announces that he or she wants a divorce, thereby releasing you from a loveless relationship...hardly a punishment, right?

How about Adrian Peterson, who we just got done typing about a few hours ago, whose punishment for being indicted on child abuse charges was eleven weeks of paid leave? Yes, he was technically not able to play football, but he did make around $8 million while he was out. Not a true punishment, not really.

And then there's the case of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who comes in at number 7 on our King of Content countdown for 2014...

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