Can Houston and Harden Whip the Warriors? . . . Hardly

USP NBA: HOUSTON ROCKETS AT PHOENIX SUNS S BKN USA AZ
James Harden Is Looking Up (becasue he needs all of the help he can get against the Warriors) 

The Houston Rockets lost Game One AT HOME to the defending NBA Champs, the Golden State Warriors.  Now, Game Two is a must win for Harden and the Rockets. James Harden and the Houston Rockets have just one shot at dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Playoffs: Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. 

Houston can’t lose Game 2 and head to Oakland and expect to win the Western Conference Finals.  They just can’t.  It’s is possible? Anything is possible to those who believe. But this one I gotta see. Judging by the way the Warriors played in Game One Monday night, it just aint gonna happen.

So all of the chips are down and all of the money is on Harden coming through in a clutch, do or die situation, one which the Rockets have been waiting for since Harden jumped ship and left OKC for Texas. And since they acquired Chris Paul after he jumped ship from the NBA’s graveyard, I mean the LA Clippers last summer, they’re supposed to be built to win now. Well, now has come.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni never had any doubt that the Harden-Paul duo would work, having been on the Team USA staff when they played together in the 2012 London Olympics. “I say sometimes flippantly that there isn’t really a superstar store in the NBA where you get to go and pick out which one you want,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said.

Making it fit and making something happen works only when you have chemistry. And this year, the Rockets certainly had chemistry and “fit”.  The Rockets rolled to the NBA’s best record (65-17) and earned their chance to meet the defending champions in the Western Conference finals in large part because of a series of summer moves Morey executed with beating the Warriors in mind.

I love what Morley said about taking advantage of opportunities: “You have to jump on the opportunities as they come and sometimes make them fit.  But in this case, we didn’t really have to [make them fit]. The fit was really incredible from day one.” Morey acknowledged that he particularly wondered how the “alpha dogs” would coexist in crunch time. The answer: even better than the Rockets could have reasonably hoped.

But it will all be for naught if they lose tonight.

Why You Should Be Watching The NBA Playoffs

James and Simmons
The NBA’s Past, LeBron James, and it’s Future, Ben Simmons

LeBron James. Ben Simmons. Joel Embiid.  James Harden.  Kevin Durant. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. And that’s just to name a few. These athletes are why you and I should be watching every possible game of these 2018 NBA Playoffs.   And it’s just the first round.

Let’s start with LeBron.

How long has LeBron James been in the NBA?  Fifteen seasons?  Wow. But time is no factor because he says he’s like fine wine; he just keeps getting better with age. And to prove it, just look at his stats, which are staggering.

James has:

3 NBA Titles

3x NBA Finals MVP

3x NBA All-Star Game MVP

4x NBA MVP

14x NBA All-Star

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Yes, LeBron James is still the king of the NBA. And this year, King James is trying to lead his rag tag, bumbling, and sometimes blundering band of basketball bums to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. But it won’t be easy. The Cavaliers are in trouble because LeBron does not have a strong supporting cast. But then again, James has been to the finals with less talent.  So we’ll see.

But LeBron is at the end of the line in Cleveand. And Ben Simmons’  Hall of Fame career is just getting started. Could this be the passing of the torch?

Philly’s phenomenal young rookie, Ben Simmons, had a double double and was 3 assists shy of a triple double in Game 3 on the road in Miami. His partner in the prime of his life is Joel Embiid who returned from an eye injury wearing a mask and led the Sixers with 23 points and seven rebounds. Not too shabby for a seven footer who needed to knock the rust off. Philly won a rough, tough, physical game which was close through 3½ quarters. But the Sixers pulled away and put Miami away down the stretch and won by 20. It was an impressive team win to say the least.

So who ya got?  The Houston Rockets have James Harden who is trying to prove that he is indeed the League MVP and can lead his team to the Promised Land of an NBA Title.  But not so fast. The defending Champs, the Warriors still have something to say, and the upstart New Orleans Pelicans are leading favorite Portland 2-0, and they are winning Game 3 handedly. But don’t sleep on the Philadelphia 76ers.  Don’t do it. They’ve got their best player back and they’re playing their best ball, so the sky is the limit for this young talented team. I’m just saying.

To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.  What’s true in sports is also true in life. Living life involves tests and trials, and in order to come out on top, we’ll need to bring our best. But sometimes our “A” game isn’t quite enough. That’s why we need the help of Heaven. The enemy of our souls tries to throw everything he has at us in an effort to knock us off and knock us down and ultimately knock us out. 

But have no fear. This is The Year of Jubilee.  This is the year that God shows off and shows out and shows up for us. Believe you me.  God is at His best when we are at our worst.

 

You Should Join A Super Team!

Durant Finals MVP

Yes, you should join a super team. Everybody’s doin’ it, right? I mean anybody and everybody in the NBA is jumping ship and breaking rank and joining another team to make a super team. And why not? If KD did it, and Kevin Garnett before him did it, and of course LeBron did it (even though he says he didn’t), then why shouldn’t all of the other superstars do it?

One thing is for sure: super teams win. Durant proved it once again this season. The problem now is, who’s got the superlative super team? Just like there’s only one basketball to share on the court, there’s only one championship trophy; but with the Larry O’Brien, there ain’t no sharin’. 

Truth be told, the first super teams were back in the late 60’s when Wilt Chamberlain flew out of Philly and latched onto the Lakers to help Jerry West beat the Celtics (but they never did.)  Then, Dr. J left the ABA New Jersey Nets to join the 76ers.  They lost to Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and the Portland Trailblazers in 1977 and then lost to the Lakers twice, in 1980 and 1982. Then, the Sixers snatched Moses Malone from Houston to form, guess what, a Super Team!  With all stars like Doc and Moses and Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones, the ’83 Sixers were truly a super team.

So fast forward to 2017, 40 years after Doc came to Philly. Now we have multiple super teams as a result of Kevin Durant going to the Warriors to beat the Cavs in this year’s finals.  Since Golden State has four bona fide all-stars, teams are scrambling this off season to grab as many available all-stars as they can to add to their roster in hopes of being a better team. Everybody now needs to be a super team in an effort to dethrone LeBron in the East and KD and Steph Curry in the West.

And just in case you’ve been vacationing on the back side of Siberia for the past week, here’s what’s been happening in NBA Free Agency:

Paul George left Indiana for OKC to play with Russell Westbrook.

Chris Paul left the LA Clippers for Houston to team with James Harden.

Jimmy Butler left Chicago for Minnesota to team with Karl Anthony Towns.

Gordon Hayward left Utah for Boston to play with Isiah Thomas and rookie phenom Jayson Tatum.

JJ Reddick left the LA Clippers to join Philly and their collective cash of young talent, including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz.

AND with all that, the Warriors still got better. Not to be outdone, the defending champions coaxed Nick Young from the Lakers for a one year deal.

 And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So what about you?  What super team are you going to join? No one wants to lose, so why stay with a losing team when you can be on a winning team right now? And why play on a “good” team when you can play on a great team?

Team Trinity from Heaven is a super team. This team wins all of the time, and can defeat any foe.  This team has been winning and whipping and walloping opponents for centuries on end. God the Father, God the Son and yes, God the Holy Spirit have teamed since eternity past and this team is built to win now, and for all time. All we have to do is sign up and sign on, and learn, and execute, the game plan. That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s that easy.

So why not sign up with this sacred, super team today? You’re destined to win with the Godhead. With the triumphant Trinity, you can and will defeat dastardly, diabolical, demonic denizens if you only stop trying to be a superhero by trying to do it all by yourself. 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, with all of his triple doubles this past season, proved one thing: that way just won’t work.

Don’t Let Your Fans Down

Charlotte Bobcats v Houston Rockets

James Harden let his fans down. He scored a measly 10 points in a Game 6 AT HOME when the playoff season was on the line. San Antonio was missing two of its superstars – Tony Parker AND Kawhi Leonard – and Houston and Harden still couldn’t muster enough mettle to win the game. And the worst part of it is, he played bad (badly for you English majors) and looked bad doing it. And his poor play in this seminal and signature game is another reason I’m not a James Harden fan.

Everybody has fans. Everybody has a fandom and a fan base and a fan nation that route and cheer us on and up and over the humps of life. These fans are crucial and critical to our psyche and our psychology; our fans are vital to our overall vitality and are essential for the state of our mind and the soundness of our soul.

That’s why we should never let our fans down. Even in defeat, loyal fans will cheer for you and chant your name and boost your game. But don’t let them down. Because fans have short fuses and long memories; while they will long remember your great game, after a dreadful loss, they will not soon forget that you are to blame.

Fans understand that nobody’s perfect and that everybody’s suspect. But when you don’t do your best or give your best or even TRY to play your best, you’ve done the worst thing imaginable in the eyes of your fans.

Your fans need to know that you’ve tried and that you’ve given it your best shot. While Harden had a sensational season, he had an uncharacteristically horrible last game of the series against the Spurs. And that’s what everyone, including this fan, will remember most.

So just remember, here’s what hardened athletes and every human heart beat have in common; it’s your friends and your favorites and your supporters and your sponsors that have your best interest at heart. They have your back. They will defend you against all comers (I’m from Philly so I DARE you to say a cross word about Allen Iverson!) But surely, I digress.

Loyal fans are the ones that will be there for you when the chips are down and the season is suddenly over. Remember not to forget and forestall the very fans you need to support you when the going gets rough.

So don’t let your fans down. At least they like you, bad days and bad games and all.

How To Be A Poor Sport

Russell Westbrook Attitude It’s amazing how some athletes can show us how to be both great and gruesome, unheralded and unglamorous, unstoppable and inexorable, all at the same time. It’s incomprehensible how the same athlete can have a triple-double and light up the scoreboard and yet have an attitude and a disposition and a standpoint that sticks out like a sore thumb and stinks up to high Heaven.

And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook may deserve to be the NBA MVP for 2017, but he also deserves a swift kick in the pants and a round wrap on the wrists, at the least. Westbrook stormed off of the basketball court after his Oklahoma City Thunder team lost Game 5 to the heated and hated rival Houston Rockets.  To add insult to injury, Westbrook is in competition with Houston’s All-star guard — and his former teammate — James Harden, for the MVP Award. 

Sadly, Westbrook could not lose graciously nor could he accept defeat amicably.

And that’s the hallmark and it should be the trademark of every true sportsman. Knowing how to win and learning how to lose is part and parcel of sports.  Since professional athletes are role models (note to Charles Barkley), anything they do and everything they say is scrutinized and analyzed to the Nth degree.

Sports and sportsmanship go hand in hand. https://godandsports.net/2014/05/30/sports-and-sportsmanship-go-hand-in-hand/ For the presumptive MVP to have such a great season end on such a grumpy note does not bode well.  When you don’t win, it’s chivalrous and courteous to shake hands and wish the winner well.  After a loss, moping and muttering and grunting and grumping aren’t acceptable actions for above average athletes. Unfortunately, Westbrook didn’t get the memo. 

The moral of the story is this: even when it hurts, and we’re mad and we don’t like how things turn out, let’s dig deep and reach high and stretch wide so that we can show how to lose with grace. Because just as we wax strong when we win, we gain just as much strength, if not more, when we learn to lose like a good sport.

Who Should Be The MVP?

 russell-westbrook-not-feeling-new-nba-all-star-voting-system-2017-images-jpg

Westbrook? Harden? Leonard? Curry? Or even LeBron?  Who has carried and cajoled and compelled their team better that all others?  And who has made them better? Who has been the on the floor and the off the hardwood commander and chief and captain and quasi coach?  In other words, who’s been the bossier boss?

The clear favorite seems to be Westbrook, even though Harden and others have somewhat to say about the final vote. No, Oklahoma City will not go far in the 2017 playoffs, but they would be nowhere without the heroics of Russell Westbrook this season. Period. Paragraph.

Do total team wins count towards or count against a player?  I mean, if I’m a great player but my squad is a middle of the road team, does that hurt me or help me? Does it matter how many wins my team gets, as long as it’s more with me than without me?  If I made my team better and they would have been much worse without me, shouldn’t that be worth something?

The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly had every reason to tank and topple this season, with Durant leaving, and especially with the WAY he left. But no; somehow, someway, Westbrook summoned strength and led his team to a winning season and they got into the playoffs. And not only that, but Westbrook broke the single season record for triple doubles, topping Oscar Robertson’s record which has stood for decades.

The Bible is full of MVPs. From Abraham to Amos, and from Zechariah to the daughters of Zelophehad, heroes and heroines of the faith all made their situations better because of their faith and their fortitude. They scored heavenly points, grabbed spiritual rebounds and dished out divine assists in route to leading their respective teams to victory.

So what about you? Is your “team” better with you, or without you? Do you make any given situation you’re in better or worse? Is your job, your group, or your club healthier, happier, enhanced and improved with your talent and your flair and your flavor? If so, you’re an MVP too.

Did They Win or Did You Lose?

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul, right, walk off the court during a timeout in the first half in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Western Conference semifinals Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

I feel bad for Chris Paul. I do. But I don’t feel bad for the Clippers. I don’t. I don’t feel for the Los Angeles Clippers, the team, but I do feel for Chris Paul, the point guard dream.

The Houston Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Clippers today in a Game 7 that didn’t have to be. The Clippers, coming off of that dramatic Game 7 win over the defending Champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, hammered and humiliated Houston and had a three games to one LEAD in the series. Three to ONE!

And so the question is this: did Houston win or did the Clippers lose? Did I mention that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had a three games to one advantage in the series? Yet and still they lost three straight as the lead slipped through their fingers, slid through their hands and slithered through their arms.

The good news is that Chris Paul did his part. Paul played his heart out in Game 7. The bad news is that he had little to no help. The lead was cut to three late in the third quarter but somehow it ballooned to 20 early in the forth as the players purportedly and supposedly positioned to support Paul failed, flopped and fizzled. Truth is, the Clippers got clipped and zipped and stripped of a series win en route to a huge let down loss. Too bad. Truth be told, they choked. They croaked. They got smoked. And the Clippers lost more than the Rockets won.

And it was a team loss. Other than Paul, with an honorable mention to DeAndre Jordan, no other player on the Clippers had the zip or the zeal needed and necessary to win a Game 7 on the road. And the Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, who is a good coach, got out done by his counterpart Kevin McHale. For all of you youngins out there, McHale made his mark with Larry Bird and Robert Parish and the Boston Celtics back in the ‘80s when I was growing up. McHale has the heart and the mind and the soul of not only a winner, but a champion.

So lest we’re too hard on Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin and the rest of the “Trippers,” I mean the Clippers, let’s take a long look in the mirror. How many games have you and I lost when the other team didn’t win? McHale and Houston had the heartiness and the headiness to come back from an almost insurmountable deficit. The Rockets won as a team; they had rich players and role players all doing their part to overcome overwhelming odds to win while the Clippers withered and waned their way to an offseason of whining and wondering.

So let’s learn the lesson. Yes its hats off to James Harden and the Rockets. They put together a classic comeback win that was well deserved. But sometimes the other team doesn’t win; sometimes you just lose. So when you’ve got your enemy down, you best bet you better knock them out.