The Teflon Beard

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Thank god I don’t have to root for James Harden. I honestly don’t know how people do it. Oh, let me rephrase that. I don’t know how ROCKETS fans do it.

I’m going to bet that a sizeable percentage of self-described NBA “fans” are basically just fans of a handful of individual players. If they do have a team, I’d bet it’s a changeable one, depending upon who might play for it in any given year.

But let’s assume there are bonafide, die-hard, “Rockets Fan To The Death!” fans out there. I wonder what they think of the new mountain of money owner Leslie Alexander just shoved at James Harden?

As expected, the NBA nerderati loves the move. Because, hey why not? Right? Harden’s a “star” because he shoots and scores a jillion points per game, with great EFFICIENCY numbers (the nerds positively melt over this, in particular) and he’s in his prime, and it “signals” to other potential free agents that Houston is “open for business” baby!

Come get that cheddar, and let’s build a SUPER TEAM! In fact, that’s exactly what Chris Paul tweeted. Not much about winning. But the bag of cash emoji. Gotta have that.

Still, I’m confident in saying that nobody’s winning shit with James Harden. Because WINNING when it matters – the playoffs – is entirely different than racking up easy mid-February points when some chump opponent rolls into town bleary-eyed off a back-to-backer.

James Harden’s borderline criminal Game 6 (non)effort against a crippled Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard will be etched in my mind forever. Even if “The Beard” fanatics want to waive it off with the excuse that “hey, everybody has bad games.”

Harden this spring was either tanking the game to pay off gamblers, or he was high as a kite. I don’t care which option you like better (or worse) but I’m not buying “Option C: “Bad Game.”

Just look at the brutal SportsCenter re-cap of the game’s lowlights.

Standing around motionless as an offensive set stagnates. Passing up wide open jumpers he normally takes by the bucketload. Absurd, don’t give-a-shit passes over his head across the middle of the court. Nah, this wasn’t just a “bad game.”

And this comes on the heels of Harden’s Game 6 disappearance in the 2015 playoff series against the Clippers. Harden was flat BENCHED in that game, and watched stiffs like Corey Brewer and Josh Smith lead the Rockets to a soul-crushing comeback win against the Clippers with a withering 40-15 4th quarter.

With the same guy you just paid another $226 million to……. on the bench.

But hey, whatever. The money is flowing right now in The Association, and I don’t deny that Harden’s a “star” with great numbers. So sure, pay him. “Pays heems ALL DEES MONEYSSSS!”

I just couldn’t stomach rooting for a TEAM that has a “star” who can sound so disconnected, passive, and utterly blase after crapping the bed at HOME in an elimination game vs. a wounded rival. This is a guy who arrived out of shape to start the 2015-16 season, helped get Kevin McHale fired after a slow start, and finally admitted that dating a Kardashian wasn’t helpful to his basketball career.

And since Harden had already signed one extension that had him locked up for two more seasons (until the end of 2018-19), why not just ride that one for a while? Where was he going to go?

Remember, this cat ended up at not one, but TWO clubs in town that night after getting embarrassed. Or, maybe I should re-phrase that: ….after he SHOULD have been embarrassed. I often wonder if some NBA “stars” have a hidden superpower which makes them entirely immune to any embarrassment whatsoever.

Hell, Harden was wearing a hooded sweatshirt by Gucci after that clown show. It costs…. $1200. I shit you not. Even if you have the mountain of NBA money to afford such nonsense, how can you sit there with it on your back and not think: “Christ… I really am a fucking tool for paying 120-times what even the softest most incredible hooded sweatshirt should cost.”

James Harden is an amazingly cat-quick scorer. His jumper is lethal, and he has now perfected the art of tricking defenders (and the refs) into awarding him free-throws on 3-point-attempts way, way, WAY too often. He’s got a funny weirdo beard that makes him visually interesting and easy to market. (Gummy worms? Really?) His defense – once mocked as being just one click away from an orange traffic cone in effectiveness – has been “upgraded” to “not an abomination.” Progress.

But nah, you don’t pay him to play defense. Just shoot, baby.

You can have James Harden all day long. I don’t see him making anybody around him better. I don’t see him being a leader or a tone setter. I don’t ever see him playing in the NBA Finals, much less winning one. I mean it’s great that Chris Paul decided to come to Houston. But I don’t see that pushing the Rockets ahead of San Antonio or Golden State. Maybe not even Oklahoma City. Hell, who knows how good the T’Wolves will be now with Jimmy Butler.

Many would make the same case about the reigning MVP, volume shooting Russell Westbrook. But at least Westbrook plays like the devil on fire, at 100 mph, every damn night. If he’s ever going to have an “off-game” in a “go-home” spot like Harden did, I can assure you he won’t take until 6 minutes are left in the 2nd quarter to lift up a single shot.

Go back and watch that SportsCenter highlight reel again. Notice anything? Harden FOULS out of the worst game of his life. And his teammates HIGH FIVE HIM. Of course.

And now he’s been paid again. Of course. He’s all yours, Houston. Enjoy.

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Steve Czaban is a 25 year sports radio veteran, who hosts an afternoon drive show in Washington D.C. "Czabe" also writes and edits his own commentaries for www.czabe.com and other on-line and print publications. He can be reached at czabe@yahoo.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. We’ll be sitting with a World Series championship by the time the Rockets get started…with one title in town, we’d be hard pressed to care about another one in bouncy ball. Especially given with a guy that clearly had p$@#@ on the brain in the clutch. He DATED A KARDASHIAN, STEVE.

    • Outstanding article! I feel sorry for Rocket fans. Stupid beard looks so hot and itchy too. Harden is the epitome of today’s AAU youth player. All about me and my points. Try to look cool and who cares about the team.

  2. James harden is a proven choker. But saying he does not elevate his teammates is a stretch. He led an ugly rockets roster to a 3 seed in the stacked west.

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