James Harden Jersey

You might not like it, but what James Harden is doing in the NBA this year is even more historic than his last two incredible seasons. He’s having one he best offensive seasons the league has ever seen. The game’s beard-wearing, analytics-embracing, points-getter is playing like an even more extreme version of himself, and the Rockets are rolling.

Harden’s averaging 38.9 points per game, which is just nuts, and he’s doing it on the best shooting percentages of his entire Hall of Fame-worthy career. Houston’s 13-6, mostly because of the numbers he’s producing, which includes 15 games (out of 19) scoring 32 points or more. Most recently, Harden scored 60 points in less than 31 minutes, playing just three quarters of a 47-point blowout win over the Hawks.

It’s hard to understate how dominant Harden is against the best basketball players in the world.
Let’s talk about Harden’s 38.9 points per game

If the season ended today, Harden’s campaign would finish as the third-most prolific single season scoring one in NBA history behind two Wilt Chamberlain seasons that shouldn’t even count. In the modern playing era, nobody’s particularly close to what Harden’s doing. Aside from Harden’s season last year, Michael Jordan is the next-closest non-Chamberlain star, averaging 37.1 points in 1987. Otherwise Kobe Bryant is closest among players in the last two decades, averaging 35.4 per game.

The man is a scoring machine whose numbers only sound more ridiculous when compared to his peers. Harden’s scored 739 points this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, is in second place, trailing by … 121 points. LeBron James has only played three minutes less than Harden this year and has scored 513 points, 226 less than Harden.

Harden’s ability to put the ball in the hoop is total freak behavior.
Harden’s taking 14.4 free throw per game

Harden is on pace to shatter the NBA’s free throw attempts record for a season in the modern era by more than 200 tries. If Harden continues at this rate, he’ll take 1,182 for the year. In 1987, Jordan took 972.

This year has been something else for the Rockets star. Harden’s taking 14.4 per game, which is way up from last year’s ridiculous 11, and that’s helping his scoring totals. Out of 274 attempts this year, he’s made 237, good for 87 percent from the line.

Regardless of how he gets to the line, how much you may not like it, and how much he might flop, what Harden’s doing has never been seen before. Getting to the line is a skill, and a very valuable one for a player making nearly 9-out-of-10 he takes. They’re free points for Harden when his shot isn’t falling, and he’s nearly taking as many as entire teams.

The Indiana Pacers, in the same amount of games as Harden, have taken just 67 more free throws than James Harden the person. The whole damn team! And Harden’s only made 41 less of them. He’s only made 22 less than the Denver Nuggets.
Harden is taking 14 threes per game

What’s maybe the most bonkers of Harden’s entire statline is how many three-point shots he’s taking. He’s firing 14 per game, which is up nearly an entire attempt from last year, and making five per night (36 percent.) Only Buddy Hield takes more than even 10 at 10.2 per game.

Harden’s an analytics angel as nearly all of his shots come from either inside the paint or behind the arc. Just six percent of his shots have been taken from 10 feet out to the three-point line. Fifty-eight percent have come from three-ball territory.

Harden is so special because only 16 percent of his three-point shots are assisted. Harden’s dancing his way around the line and launching on his own with a good succession rate. Nearly 30 percent of his attempted triples come after he takes seven or more dribbles.

To compare him to entire teams around the league again, Harden has made and taken more than half of the amount of three-point shots as the entire Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers teams. Harden’s sunk 94 of 265 tries, the Nuggets have made 177 of 502 and Pacers 179 of 494. Devonte Graham has made the second-most threes this season among players, trailing Harden by 22 makes.

Let’s just marvel at Harden’s shot chart for a quick second

All threes or shots in the paint with the exception of what? Four shots? It’s beautiful.
Yes, James Harden is having a better year than Kobe’s best scoring one

Harden’s peak is better than Bryant ever was, but most of you aren’t ready for that discussion yet. So let’s just pick apart Bryant’s best season, which was the second-highest scoring one of the last two decades, aside from Harden’s season last year.

In 2006, Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game, which is extremely good. His points came on 27 shots per game of which he made 45 percent. He took nearly seven threes and made 35 percent of those, and made 85 percent of his 10 free throws. He also had five assists, five rebounds and two steals.

Through 19 games, Harden is averaging 38.9 points per game on 24 shots. That’s three fewer attempts! He’s also shooting 45 percent from the field, and 35 percent from three, but taking 14 free throws and making 87 percent of those. Harden’s also averaging eights assists, six rebounds and two steals.

For the more intricate numbers followers, Harden’s assist percentage is 14 percent higher than Bryant’s was, his PER is 29.8 to Bryant’s 28.0, his win share per 48 minutes is .302 to Bryant’s .224, and his true shooting percentage is .64 compared to Bryant’s .559.
The Rockets have no business being 13-6. Harden is carrying them there

For those unable to appreciate individual greatness, understand that the Rockets should be a lot worse. If Harden were a league average player, they’d probably be a .500 team.

Russell Westbrook is shooting the ball really poorly at 43 percent from the field and 23 percent from three. Eric Gordon had knee surgery and has played only nine games (and played them poorly.) Outside of Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker, the Rockets employ role players most casual fans have never heard of.

Harden is one of few players in the world who can take this Houston roster to the heights its reaching. The Rockets have the eighth-best net rating in the league, ahead of the Sixers, Nuggets and Jazz. Offensively, they’re the second-most efficient in the league.
Can Harden do this for an entire season?

He’s done something similar for the last eight years, so why stop now? We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the season, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Heck, if he played in the fourth quarter of the game against the Hawks, he might’ve beaten Kobe’s 81 point game.

What Harden’s doing is replicable so long as he stays healthy.

Hakeem Olajuwon Jersey

The Duke Basketball team remained in the Associated Press Top-10 after the Blue Devils lost to Stephen F. Austin and defeated Winthrop.

After splitting its games last week against Stephen F. Austin and Winthrop the Duke Blue Devils lost its No. 1 ranking in the latest edition of the Associated Press Top-25 Poll.

Duke dropped to No. 10 after its loss to the Lumberjacks at the buzzer in overtime.

With the Blue Devils stepping down from the top spot, there is now a new team at No. 1 for the fourth time in five weeks of the AP Poll this season.

The Louisville Cardinals, who were previously at No. 2, took over the No. 1 ranking.

Duke is not the first team this season to hold the No. 1 ranking and fall to an unranked team at home. The then No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats lost to the Evansville Purple Aces and fell to No. 9 the following week.

Following Louisville in the Top-5 are the Kansas Jayhawks, Maryland Terrapins, Michigan Wolverines, and Virginia Cavaliers.

Michigan made the biggest jump of the week after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament going from unranked to No. 4.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, North Carolina Tar Heels, Kentucky Wildcats, and Gonzaga Bulldogs round out the Top-9 with the Blue Devils coming in at No. 10.

In its first game as the No. 10 team in the country, the Duke Blue Devils will hit the road and face the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday night.

Michigan State lost its first game in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational last week against the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team Duke will play on the road on Friday night.

The Spartans started the season as the No. 1 team in the Preseason Associated Press Top-25 Poll and fell immediately after an opening night loss to Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

Prior to its loss to the Hokies, Michigan State was ranked at No. 3.

Duke and Michigan State will tipoff at 9:30pm EST on Tuesday night on ESPN while the Blue Devils and Hokies will tipoff at 7:00pm EST on Friday night on the ACC Network.

Trevor Ariza Jersey

Kings Head coach Luke Walton is going to have to wait a little longer before he’s playing with a full deck of cards.

Trevor Ariza is back in the fold, but neither De’Aaron Fox, nor Marvin Bagley is ready to go just yet.

Ariza has missed seven of the last eight games with a sore groin and a personal issue. When the team’s injury report came out on Monday afternoon, the 16-year NBA veteram was not listed and he is expected to suit up.

According to an official release from the Kings, Fox, who has a Grade 3 ankle sprain, will not travel with the team on their upcoming four-game road trip.

“[Fox] continues to make progress as he has returned to on-court, non-contact basketball activities,” the release says.

The 21-year-old point guard injured his left ankle at the end of practice on Nov. 11. He has missed the last nine games for the Kings and will be re-evaluated in two-to-three weeks.

Bagley broke his right thumb in the season opener in Phoenix and has yet to be cleared for contact. He’s been on the court working out and staying in shape, but he will miss at least another two games for Sacramento before being re-evaluated by the end of the week by the team’s medical staff.

Walton continues to mix and match his lineups and has his team playing well. After an 0-5 start, the Kings are rolling into December at 8-10, and currently are tied for the eighth-best record in Western Conference.

Eric Gordon Jersey

How badly do the Rockets miss Eric Gordon?

Eric Gordon’s last game played was against the New Orleans Pelicans. He suffered a knee injury that has him sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Recently, it shows that the Rockets need him late in game situations.

In the last three games, the Rockets have struggled in the 4th quarter. Teams are starting double James Harden late in games. Harden’s dominance has caused for multiple double teams this season.

Russell Westbrook is having good season by shooting 41.4% from the field. As seen, Westbrook has no problem getting to the rim, shooting from underneath the arc, or finishing on fast breaks. He has struggled shooting the ball from three this season. Westbrook is now shooting 23% from three. This is something Westbrook has told the press after his divesting playoff lost against the Portland trailblazers. Late In 4th quarters, Westbrook has missed game tying open threes. That was seen against the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. Westbrook has never been shy of the moment before but now questions circulate. Has he taken too much of a back seat to Harden?

Gordon has struggled shooting the ball from the field before his knee injury. He is at a season low averaging 10.9 ppg. Gordon is also shooting the ball at 30.9% from the field. He has never shot the ball this poorly in his career. Since his tenure with the Rockets, Gordon has been reliable. His most reliable moments are in the 4th quarter. All last season, Gordon made major shots in the 4th quarter. In the last three quarters of last season, Gordon was averaging 18.4ppg, shooting the ball at 40.9% from the field, and shooting 36.9% at the three point line. In order for Gordon to help the Rockets, he has to overcome his struggles.

Clint Capela Jersey

Rockets center Clint Capela is likely to return for Tuesday’s game at division rival San Antonio after missing Houston’s last two games with an illness, head coach Mike D’Antoni said at practice Monday.

However, forward Danuel House Jr. is likely to remain out with an illness of his own, which started a few days later. Thus, he hasn’t had the same recovery time. Capela missed both Wednesday’s win over Miami and Saturday’s blowout ofAtlanta, while House missed just the second game.

Though the Rockets have not indicated the nature of the illness for either player, House said Saturday in an Instagram story that he had the flu. D’Antoni said Monday that House would likely travel with the team, which could at least give him an opportunity to play.

Clint Capela says he was battling a fever, chills and a sinus infection and was in bed for a week. He spent one day in the hospital getting IVs. He said he didn’t lose any weight and was on the court this morning – his stamina was good and he said he felt really good.

Clint Capela is expected to play in San Antonio on Tuesday, according to Mike D’Antoni.

The Rockets (13-6) are clear favorites over the Spurs (7-14), who entered Monday at No. 12 in the Western Conference standings. However, the Spurs do have upside, as evidenced by a 10-point home win last Friday over the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George-led Los Angeles Clippers. Thus, Capela’s return is certainly a welcome development.

The Spurs could be without power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 18.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season. The seven-time All-Star is dealing with a minor thigh injury.

In his sixth season, Capela is averaging 14.6 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 31.9 minutes per game this year, and he’s on a historic rebounding tear with at least 19 boards in his last seven games played.

Prior to Capela’s current streak, the only NBA player to have at least 19 rebounds in seven straight games was rebounding legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who last did it in the 1994-95 season.

The only player in Rockets franchise history to have posted averages of at least 14 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks per game in a full season was Hakeem Olajuwon, who did it 30 years ago in the 1989-90 season.

Meanwhile, House has been one of the team’s best shooters and wing defenders. The 6-foot-6 swingman averages 12.4 points in 29.7 minutes per game on 47.4% shooting overall and 44.4% from three-point range.

If House is out, former 2013 NBA Draft lottery pick Ben McLemore would again start at small forward. McLemore was excellent in House’s place during Saturday’s win over the Hawks, posting season-highs of 24 points, 13 rebounds, and six made three-pointers.

Ryan Anderson Jersey

Ryan Anderson seemed like a perfect fit for the Houston Rockets’ bench when he returned to the team during the offseason. One of the league’s preeminent shooting big men, Anderson had previously spent two seasons with the Rockets before a 2018 trade sent him to the Phoenix Suns. His return this summer seemingly gave Houston more stylistic diversity in its front line, but less than a month into the season, the Rockets are pulling the plug and waiving Anderson, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Anderson had not played much for Houston this season, taking the floor only twice for 14 total minutes despite seeming to be an ideal player for lineups featuring Russell Westbrook. Houston outscored opponents by 21.2 points per 100 possessions in that span, but Anderson himself shot 1-for-5 on 3-point attempts. After last season’s 9-for-40 mark, Anderson’s decline as a shooter seems to be meaningful.

Still, the Rockets are dealing with a number of injuries at the moment. Gerald Green remains out after a preseason injury, and Eric Gordon will be sidelined for quite some time. Fellow backup big man Nene has not yet played this season, and one would reasonably think that a team in that position wouldn’t want to get rid of depth without an immediate plan for fortifying it. Of course, for Houston, there are significant financial implications involved in this move.

Anderson was signed for the veteran’s minimum salary figure of around $2.6 million, but only $500,000 of that deal was guaranteed. By waiving him now, the Rockets have slipped back under the luxury tax threshold for the season.

Owner Tilman Fertitta has claimed that he is willing to pay the tax, but his actions since taking over the team tell a different story. Houston gave away a number of assets to get under the tax at last season’s trade deadline, and while the 37-year-old Nene has some chronic injury issues, his contract is likely the main thing keeping him sidelined. Houston signed him to a deal involving a number of bonuses based in part on games played, and if even a single one of those bonuses paid out, the Rockets would vault back above the tax line. Naturally, they would prefer that didn’t happen, and so Nene has not yet played this season.

Further complicating matters is the revenue Houston has lost since Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong. According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, that figure will fall in the $20 million range. Fertitta needed to take on a substantial amount of debt in order to buy the team, and falls on the low end of NBA owners in terms of overall wealth and liquidity.

Unless Houston follows this move up with a subsequent signing to fortify its weakened bench, it will be hard not to view this at least in part as a financially-motivated decision. The 10-3 Rockets appear to be true championship contenders, but just opened up a roster spot despite missing several players to injury already. If Houston ever planned to put its money where its mouth is in regards to the tax, now would be the time to do so.

Patrick Beverley Jersey

In this series, our honorable judge presides over the most contentious feuds in sports, considers the evidence, and settles the beef with the wisdom and authority vested in him by, uh, the internet. First up: a tempestuous tornado of triple-doubles vs. a point guard who refuses to be rocked to sleep like a baby.

Beef Case. There’s a charming, somewhat recent trend of star athletes giving thoughtful, in-depth postgame analyses of specific plays or schemes. After a playoff loss in 2018, LeBron James showed off his photographic memory by recalling the precise scenarios that led to all six of his turnovers. At a press conference earlier this year, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson broke down the Atlanta Falcons’ defense, offering step-by-step explanations for his complex decisions. Russell Westbrook takes a different approach. After the Houston Rockets’ 102–93 win over the Clippers last week, he provided reporters with a curt examination of Los Angeles point guard Patrick Beverley’s defensive skills: “Pat Bev trick y’all, man, like he playing defense. He don’t guard nobody, man. It’s just running around, doing nothing.”

Beverley had been tasked with stopping Houston scoring inferno James Harden. The former MVP scored 47 points in the Rockets’ win. “All that commotion to get 47,” Westbrook said.

“Don’t start that, don’t start that,” Beverley responded when asked about Westbrook’s comments after the game. “I don’t care about that.” He then exited the locker room to continue his not-caring elsewhere.

Despite what you may have heard from Westbrook, Beverley is, in fact, a terrific defender. He’s more irritating than a wool sweater without an undershirt, and—again, contrary to Westbrook’s claims—he was quite effective against Harden last Wednesday. “I was on his ass,” Beverley said, truthfully. According to ESPN, the Houston star went 0-for-6 when guarded by Beverley.

It’s almost as if Westbrook ignored the data provided by ESPN’s Stats & Information department and instead based his criticisms on emotion. How odd! Could it possibly be related to an ongoing beef? Let’s take a look.

Provenance du Boeuf. “Have a history” is one of my favorite beef euphemisms. It’s a rather tender term, even though it just means that two people haven’t liked each other for a while. There’s a Proustian nostalgia to it, and Wednesday’s squabble in Houston serves as the madeleine to remind us that Westbrook and Beverley do indeed have a history.

April 24, 2013: Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder were matched up against Beverley’s Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. In Game 2, Westbrook called a timeout by the sideline, and, as the referee blew his whistle, Beverley lunged for the ball.

Westbrook was demonstrably upset, and for good reason. While he managed to finish the game, he suffered a torn meniscus during the collision. He missed the rest of the playoffs, and the Thunder lost in the next round.

Beverley defended himself from accusations of playing dirty. “I don’t go out to try and hurt anybody,” he said at the time. “I tried to make a play on the ball.”

While Beverley’s move was obnoxious, it wasn’t terribly dirty. It was, though, indicative of his competitive nature, a quality that helped Beverley stick in the NBA after stints in Ukraine and Greece. And besides, players have been known to fake timeouts in the past. (A reach, sure, but the Andre Miller highlight linked in the previous sentence is an admissible piece of evidence.)

Westbrook, meanwhile, wasn’t so sure about Beverley’s intentions. “That’s really something I can’t answer,” he said. “I know I just hope it wasn’t a dirty play.”

March 11, 2014: In the first meeting since their fateful collision, Westbrook went to the sideline to call a timeout and Beverley respectfully gave him the space to do so. Just kidding! He slapped the ball out of his hands and earned a technical foul.

Beverley insisted he wasn’t trying to send a “message” with an unfriendly homage to the previous season’s contentious, meniscus-tearing play. “That’s how I play against everybody. No personal battles against anybody,” he said. “I go out there and fight and do what I do to try to win a basketball game.”

Oct. 30, 2018: This beef largely revolved around timeout etiquette until Westbrook added the classic art of pantomime. After blowing by Beverley for a layup in a regular season matchup against the Clippers, Westbrook pretended to cradle a vulnerable infant in his arms.

Apparently unsure about whether his portrayal of child care was obvious to viewers, Westbrook removed any doubt after the game. “You got little kids, you got little babies, put ’em to sleep,” he said.

Westbrook failed to account for the maneuver’s easy replicability, and, later in that same contest, Beverley hoisted the Thunder point guard upon his own petard.

(There’s a reason charades is known as “the most dangerous game.”)

The beef really got flambéed in the fourth quarter when Beverley threw himself after a loose ball, flying precariously close to Westbrook’s knees—and lest we forget his meniscus is the Rosebud of this drama.

The post-foul bickering became so intense that Oklahoma City police officers bravely threw themselves into the beef, standing between Westbrook and Beverley during a timeout.

Beef to the Future. Unlike previous installments, last week’s episode occurred mainly off the court. Beverley had spent most of the game covering other Rockets, so the two avoided any in-game tussles. However, when Beverley fouled out in the fourth quarter, Westbrook cheerily waved him goodbye.

That move, combined with Westbrook’s postgame comments, indicates that this beef is still being marinated for use on a later date. Specifically Friday, when the two teams play each other next.

Spoiled Beef. For all the hype going into last week’s Beverley-Westbrook reunion (check out this ESPN pump-up video), they weren’t even party to the night’s sauciest beef. That honor goes to father-and-son beef duo Doc and Austin Rivers.

When Clippers head coach Doc became apoplectic with the refs in the fourth quarter, Houston guard Austin gleefully asked the officials to give his dad a technical. (They did one better and ejected him.)

After the game, the younger Rivers channeled Beverley and offered up a familiar defense. “It could have been anybody I would have done that with, but it was him, and it’s turned into this. So yeah, that’s it.”

Beef Verdict. That Westbrook would reopen old wounds after the two played nice all game may seem like a cheap move, but he’s simply adhering to the rules of this particular beef: Play through the whistle. As such, the court determines Russell Westbrook to be the unambiguous winner in this round of Beef Court.

Six years is a long time for beef, and Westbrook deserves credit for keeping it fresh with this novel “he don’t guard nobody” defense. The man loathes talking to the press, and his eagerness to bash Beverley suggests he’s committed to nurturing this beef for years to come. Beverley, meanwhile, seemed to be taken by surprise last week, though he will assuredly come prepared on Friday. (Actually, it seems more likely that he’ll come overprepared.) Clippers star Paul George is finally back in the lineup, and he will likely get assigned the task of guarding Harden, which leaves Beverely free to defend Westbrook (or to trick us into thinking that he is defending him). If history is any indication, this beef will boil over into a classic pot-au-feu to keep us warm as winter approaches.