Maybe I was wrong.
At least wrong with regards to the winners and losers of last week's James Harden trade.
Initially, I thought Harden lost out for leaving OKC.
But after averaging 41 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 7 assists in his first two games in Houston, perhaps this guy knew what he was doing all along.
And since we're talking numbers, we should mention that Harden turned down 55 million to stay a super sub/third option for a championship contending team over the next 4 years. Instead he opted for 80 million to have a chance to become a super star/first option and lead a basketball revival in Houston over the next 5. Hard to argue with the choice he made. Sometimes blazing your own trail (and being financially rewarded for it) has a certain appeal to it. Sometimes more (money, playing time, responsibility) is...... more.
Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Yes, the rockets are 2-0. But they beat Detroit and Atlanta. Not exactly NBA powerhouses.
Listen, I still think Houston will be hard pressed to make the playoffs this year. And I still stick by my statement that Houston is not going to the Finals anytime soon.
Or are they?
Here is where it gets interesting.
Let's say Harden does indeed become a superstar. And not just a scorer/ball hog, but one who truly makes his teammates better, who willingly comes off of screen and rolls, and passes as well as he shoots. Mind you, these are all qualities he already possesses. Does he then make Houston a destination of choice for another star player? With Harden being their only max contract, the Rockets still have money.
Here is food for thought:
What if the Lakers have a underperforming year and Dwight Howard isn't happy there?
Is it possible he can leave and sign with Houston in the summer?
Would Harden, Howard, and Lin make the Rockets a Finals contending team?
Is there anyone else the Rockets could pick up via free agency?
Am I making too much of this?
Am I drinking the Kool-aid?
Good enough to shoulder the load on his own?
Remember when I asked (rhetorically) if Harden was even as good as Kobe or Wade?
Well here is a non-rhetorical question for you:
At this stage in everyone's respective career, is Harden better than Kobe and Wade???
Yes that is a serious question.
Perhaps with a larger sample size we will have a serious answer.
And perhaps I should reconsider if OKC really was a winner after the Harden trade.
Don't get me wrong, I believe at the time (all of last week) they got fair value, all things considering. Harden was still a 6th man averaging 17.8 points per game.
And for that, OKC essentially got 4 players, which includes a proven scorer, a young talent, and two first round draft picks. And I stand by OKC still being a contender and will be able to find another player to replace what harden was giving them, at least statistically (chemistry wise may be a different story). Kevin Martin already seems to be fitting in nicely - 17 points, 3.5 assists in his first two games off the bench for OKC (shooting 43% for the field, 67% from three). With KD and Westbrook, perhaps those are numbers that will suffice for a third option.
What else could they have done?
Well, here is where we have to consider the options.
I believe it was a mistake to take care of Serge Ibaka's contract before James Harden, and I felt that way when it happened last year. OKC should have locked up Harden first and then asked Ibaka to sacrifice. And there is no other way around it.
Also, you have to ask if they should have looked into maybe trading Perkins to make more monetary space for Harden as well. They still have Collison off the bench and probably could have picked up someone else. If they maintained their core of KD, Westbrook, and Harden (a-la Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli) they could always be able to find someone else.
Again, I don't know if this really would have mattered. OKC offered Harden near max for 4 years. If Harden was looking for 5 years only, I don't know if OKC could have done anything to pull it off. But still, it's one thing to have KD and Westbrook locked up before you, it's another to have Perkins and Ibaka locked up before you.
Also, let me reconsider Jeremy lamb's situation.
Initially I thought he would benefit from going up against KD in practice everyday. But I was also assuming he would play. But if he doesn't get much burn (only 1 minute in OKC's first two games), I don't know how beneficial this situation will be for him. It's my belief that playing early and often is of huge value to young players. Of course, it's equally important to have good/great players and coaches around you to to instill correct fundamentals and work ethic as well.
I always use the Knicks as an example for this.
The year the Knicks passed up Ron Artest in the draft, everyone in New York was angry.
I was happy for Artest. Had he been drafted by the Knicks and placed behind Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell in the rotation - I think it would have been detrimental to his career. Then again, the Knicks organization is detrimental to most players careers, regardless.
As the latest example, look at Jordan Hill. No burn and considered a bust after being drafted lottery by the Knicks. And now a quality big, with playing time, for the Lakers.
I hope Lamb gets a chance to play and develop.
Now you want to talk about Winners?
How could I forget to mention that one of the biggest winners out of all of this is Jeremy Lin?
How about going from a guy with the franchise on his shoulders and LeBron expectations to a guy who can be a normal point guard, a supporting player, and can have a "good" year with out it being considered a failure. And by good I mean 14 points and 8 assists a game. Actually, I think that would be a great year for Lin and worth every bit of the 25 million the Rockets committed to him over three years (for your information, his salary, ~ 8 million a year, is on par with that of average starting point guards in the league).
But with Harden now the center of attention, maybe Lin can do better than average.
How about his stat line last night: 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
At the very least, all of this makes Houston a compelling team to watch this season.
And that's all they want right?
It will surely be interesting to see team beard go up against Miami, L.A., and of course the OKC kids.
By the way, what do you think KD and Westbrook are texting/tweeting to each other and even Harden right now?
Here's a guess for KD: