If there was any doubt that Houston Rockets’ star James Harden is this year’s MVP, those doubts were cast aside this week. His jaw-dropping crossover against the Clippers left more than Wesley Johnson in a heap on the floor, it also left the rest of the MVP field in the dust.
Harden continues to play well on both ends of the floor, though his offensive exploits are always the bigger story. He has the Rockets playing like a well-oiled machine, having flawlessly adapted to a backcourt with Chris Paul also running point. The defensive end, however, is where Harden and the Rockets have made the most improvement.
The Boston Celtics appeared to have the key to ending Houston’s 14-game winning streak on Saturday, as the Rockets trailed by six late in the fourth quarter. The Rockets used their defense to spark a 10-2 run to close the game that extended the season-long winning streak to 15 games. Harden had an off night shooting, hitting just 6-of-18 from the field and 3-for-12 from three, but he contributed 10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals, all of which proved invaluable in the Rockets’ most impressive win of the streak.
The Rockets enter this week as the hottest team in the NBA, also leading the Western Conference by a half-game over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Even as the Rockets are proving they are for real night after night, Harden is sending a message to the rest of the league that this is his year. It’s time for Harden to join Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone among the ranks of NBA Most Valuable Players.
Game to watch this week: Friday night’s visit to the East-leading Toronto Raptors.
This week reports surfaced that talks between Jordan Brand shoes and Spurs’ star Kawhi Leonard have stalled. Leonard’s camp wants a signature shoe to go along with a four-year extension worth in excess of $20 million. The report said it’s “unclear” whether Leonard wants to stay with Brand Jordan.
That’s not all that’s unclear about Kawhi Leonard these days.
Like those contract extension talks, the San Antonio Spurs have stalled. The team is perfectly constructed to complement Leonard is practically every way. They are not, however, built to have much success without him. Losers of eight of their last ten games, the Spurs are on the verge of being knocked out of the playoff picture as the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers are pushing to get into the West’s top eight.
The big question on everyone’s mind, of course, is: Where is Kawhi Leonard?!?
Leonard has been cleared to play, yet Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t expect his star player to return this season. LaMarcus Aldridge is good, but he’s never truly embraced the role of star player. Around him are role players and aging stars who could probably make a deep playoff run if Leonard were healthy and in All-Star form. Without Leonard, however, the Spurs might just miss the playoffs altogether.
The folks at Brand Jordan appear to have questions about how much to invest in a player who has logged just nine games this season and is now refusing to play. Fans of the San Antonio Spurs, who aren’t accustomed to their team missing the playoffs, have similar questions.
The news that Dirk Nowitzki currently plans to play one more season for the Dallas Mavericks should be cause for celebration, but it also arguably keeps the Mavs’ long-term future on hold. The devotion between the Mavs and the best player in their franchise’s history is rare and wonderful. Is it the best thing for both parties, though?
One player who does not seem likely to figure into the Mavs’ long-term plan is Nerlens Noel. Noel has been less than stellar since returning to the lineup last week and there’s little doubt that failing to offer him the max deal he sought last summer was the right move for Dallas. The Mavericks’ search for a long-term solution at center continues. Luckily, there is a wealth of them available in this summer’s NBA Draft.
There is a positive for Dallas, however, as the season winds down. They actually got a win last week, taking out the Indiana Pacers 109-103 thanks in large part to the play of recent acquisition Doug McDermott. McDermott dropped in 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and has been a solid addition in his short time in Dallas. It remains to be seen whether or not that was the tanking Mavs’ last win of the season.
Bill Ingram has 17 years of experience covering the NBA and is now a contributing writer for nbAradioshow.com. You can find him on Twitter: @TheRocketGuy
About This Blog
This is the official blog of the NBAyd show. All our correspondents you hear on the show post here, as well as show host Gary Ayd. Looking for more? Visit the premium blog in our members only area for full access to premium articles and commercial free shows!