NBA

Harden speculation ramps up as Cousins turns on 'disrespectful' superstar

By Sports Desk January 13, 2021

James Harden appears increasingly likely to be traded by the Houston Rockets as his team-mates continue to vocalise opposition to the wantaway superstar.

Harden's desire to move elsewhere was evident in the offseason as both the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers were heavily linked.

No deal was agreed before the campaign began, however, and the 2018 MVP has played in eight of the 3-6 Rockets' nine games so far, scoring 24.8 points per game - his worst average since joining the team in 2012.

Harden's frustrations boiled over after Houston's latest 117-100 defeat to defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

He stormed out of a post-game news conference after saying: "I literally have done everything that I can. This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

Those comments prompted backlash from All-Star team-mate John Wall, and Wednesday brought fresh reports of trade talks.

According to the New York Times, the Rockets want to do a deal with the Sixers for Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, the rookie who has excelled amid Philadelphia's COVID-19 crisis.

The Athletic said Houston were looking for a swift resolution and could be offered all of the Nets' future first-round picks and pick swaps.

Harden's Rockets colleagues already look to be moving on, with DeMarcus Cousins facing the media on Wednesday to offer his take on the "antics".

"Obviously it's disrespectful, but everybody has their words and their opinions," Cousins said. "We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions.

"This is the nasty part of the business that kind of gets swept under the rug. You deal with these type of things when guys are in positions of being franchise players or whatever the case may be.

"It's sometimes or usually a nasty break-up. That's all part of this business.

"You know I'm going to say this: coming in every day, we want to work, get better, lead this younger group.

"Regardless of what's going on with the team, the guys that are showing up, that are committed, that are buying into the task at hand, we're going to go to war with those guys.

"Whatever those results are, we're going to live with it. We're going to leave it all on the floor and whatever happens happens."

He added: "The other 14 guys of the locker room have done nothing to him. We've only showed up to work like everybody else. It's completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room."

Cousins was asked if he felt betrayed by Harden's behaviour, having only signed for the team last month, but replied he was more interested in playing with Wall.

"Me personally, I don't feel betrayed at all," he said. "My interest was to play with John Wall, to be brutally honest.

"That being said, the disrespect started way before any interview. [It was] just the approach to the training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court.

"The disrespect started way before. This isn't something that all of a sudden happened last night. With that being said, this is the nasty part of the business. It is what it is."

Asked if there was any way Harden could be welcomed back into the team, Cousins said: "I don't really think that's a question for us.

"I think that's a question for him: will he ever play with us again? I don't know. Quite honestly, I don't care."

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  • Harden comments didn't impact trade plans – Rockets GM Harden comments didn't impact trade plans – Rockets GM

    Rafael Stone insisted James Harden's comments after two losses to the Los Angeles Lakers did not impact the Houston Rockets' trade plans.

    Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets days after saying he had done everything he could in Houston.

    After back-to-back losses to the Lakers, the eight-time All-Star also said: "This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

    But Stone said Harden's comments, which drew criticism from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, were irrelevant to the Rockets' plans.

    "They did not affect me at all. In a trade there are multiple parties so I have no idea if it affected other teams," Stone told a news conference on Sunday.

    "But I can guarantee you it did not affect us."

    The Rockets acquired Victor Oladipo from the Pacers, sending former Nets guard Caris LeVert to Indiana.

    As part of the Nets trade that involved the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston also brought in Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum, plus four first-round picks, to go with four first-round pick swaps.

    Stone is happy with the deal the Rockets ended up with as he lauded two-time All-Star Oladipo.

    "I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the other deals," Stone said.

    "I would say what is super exciting about this deal is it gives us flexibility and in the NBA, picks, especially high picks, are the best currency. Everybody likes them, everybody values them, so that was great organisationally, it gave us flexibility to do different types of deals as they come up this year, next year, whatever.

    "We were able to get Victor Oladipo as part of it along with Rodi and Dante, but Victor is a guy we're really excited about. I think he's excited to be here and we think he's very talented so that was not insignificant from our perspective."

    The Rockets hold a 4-7 record this season and are 14th in the Western Conference.

  • Windies 'substitutes' should seize the moment in Bangladesh Windies 'substitutes' should seize the moment in Bangladesh

    On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

    1. Windies men- Nothing to lose so much to gain!

    It is no secret that as the West Indies get set to face Bangladesh on January 20, in their first One-Day International, the home side is the overwhelming favourite, especially because of their track record of winning at home. The Windies enter against a backdrop comprising of several senior players opting out, Hayden Walsh Jr getting Covid-19 mere days before the first ODI, eight players making their ODI debut and the captain, Jason Mohammed, who last played for the Windies in 2018. Despite all these factors, they walk into this series with nothing to lose and so much to gain.

    It is easy to point out the lack of experience in the Windies team. Simply put, as I mentioned before, eight of the players suiting up will be making their debuts. In the ODI setup, Rovman Powell is the most experienced having played 34 matches with the skipper Jason Mohammed ranked second with 28. While this is enough to say the Windies team is inexperienced we must also note that Bangladesh also has three uncapped players - off-spinner Mahadi Hasan and pacers Shorful Islam and Hasan Mahmud.

    Similarly, it is natural to feel uneasy that ODI skipper Jason Mohammed has been out of Windies cricket since 2018. However, we cannot forget that Mohammed previously captained the Windies in an ODI against England in 2017 and in three T20Is during their 2018 Pakistan tour.

    It was during a similar situation when key players refused to play and CWI thrust Mohammed to the helm.

    All things considered, it is not always a disadvantage to be the underdogs if the team is physically and mentally ready. In World-Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd’s open letter to the team, he highlighted that he made his debut on short notice against India 1966. He got his call up just hours before the game and went on to score 82 and 78. 

    And, in that is the bigger picture. A ticket to the World Cup awaits any player who seizes this moment. Wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva impressed on his Test debut in New Zealand where he scored an impressive half-century.

    Batsman Kjorn Ottley is another player who could force his way into the first team. In 2019, he played for Barbados in the 50-over competition and scored 325 runs in the nine innings at an average of 54.16.  All-rounder Akeal Hosein will be eager to transfer his CPL form into this format of the game.

    The 27-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in T&T’s 2020 first-class season with a total of 36 wickets at an average of 20.61. 

     

    1. Brooklyn Nets Success: One Word- Sacrifice.

    News of James Harden leaving the Houston Rockets and joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit very well with me as a Rockets supporter. It took me a few days to process his exit. However, as Harden’s biggest supporter and critic I understand the reason for the move. The three-time NBA scoring champion is desperate to win a Championship and he is not getting younger. However, if the Nets are to be successful it comes down to a key factor - sacrifice.

     The “Big Three” of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can only work well if they share the ball. Over the last 10 seasons, all three players have ranked in the top 10 in the highest usage rate in clutch time. Harden described it best while addressing the media. 

    “When it comes to facilitating it depends on the flow of the game. Some nights I’ll be a facilitator. Some nights I might get it going and score the ball at a high clip. That is the beauty of being versatile and being able to do more than one thing. Same with Kevin and same with Kyrie. Every night is going to be different.”

     Each of the three players will be required to sacrifice whatever is going on behind the scenes of their lives if they are to win a championship. Irving was fined USD$50,000 for breaching the NBA Covid-19 protocols after a video surfaced on social media that showed him at a birthday party with no mask.

    He also made an appearance at a Zoom fundraiser for a progressive political candidate half-hour before the tipoff of a Nets game.  He needs to show up mentally and physically.  Harden is out of shape and will have to avoid getting into Covid-19 trouble again. Additionally, it will be in the team’s best interest if KD stays injury free and avoids getting the virus again.

     In order for the Nets to get the best of the Harden trade all egos have to be put aside and the players need to allow rookie head coach Steve Nash and assistant coach Michael  D'Antoni to do their jobs without interference.

    A positive to draw from this is Harden has worked well with D’Antoni at the Rockets and even cited his move had a lot to do with the influence of the assistant coach.

    Kevin Durant, without a doubt, is a selfless player. He sacrificed his Achilles when he returned to the 2019 NBA finals too soon.  His value to the team goes without saying, however, a key element of the Nets success this season will be his acceptance of the leadership role. 

    The Brooklyn Nets are championship contenders for 2021. The big question is then “Who is selfless enough to step back?” 

      

    1. Widespread vaccination and speedy rollout can ensure the Tokyo Olympics proceed.

    Japanese government officials say they are committed to hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo despite a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.  Reports indicate that the international Olympic Committee is working on ways to ensure that athletes are vaccinated so the event can proceed safely in July.

    As of Friday, 15 January, Tokyo confirmed 2001 new infections. The number of new infections and the shortage of hospital beds are making it difficult to hospitalize coronavirus patients.  Deputy head of the Tokyo Medical Association Masataka Inakuchi has warned that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients could rise to approximately 4600 in a week and 7000 in two weeks.

    One can only hope that there will be widespread vaccination rollouts and speedy distribution in Tokyo so the Olympic Games can proceed without any further delay. 

     

     

  • Kemba Walker available for Celtics return on 20-minute restriction Kemba Walker available for Celtics return on 20-minute restriction

    Kemba Walker is available to play for the first time this season and could feature for up to 20 minutes for the Boston Celtics against the New York Knicks.

    Walker has not appeared since the Celtics' Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Miami Heat in Orlando last year.

    The former Charlotte Hornets point guard has been working on strengthening his left knee in an attempt to avoid any further lay-offs in the remainder of the campaign.

    Knee soreness contributed to Walker missing 16 of Boston's 72 regular season games in 2019-20, his first year after leaving Charlotte, so the team are hoping to avoid a repeat.

    Walker was listed as questionable this week for the first time all season and was then upgraded to available on Sunday ahead of the game at TD Garden at 1300 ET.

    Coach Brad Stevens subsequently confirmed Walker would have a restriction of around 20 minutes.

    The 8-3 Celtics are still without Jayson Tatum, among others, due to NBA health and safety protocols in the aftermath of the team's coronavirus crisis.

    Boston had three consecutive games postponed and their practices cancelled - contributing to Walker's delayed return - before beating the Orlando Magic 124-97 on Friday.

    Walker averaged 20.4 points per game last season, trailing only Tatum (23.4) for the Celtics, while also contributing 4.8 assists, behind just Marcus Smart (4.9).

    The 30-year-old's scoring dropped slightly to 19.6 in the postseason - putting Tatum (25.7) and Jaylen Brown (21.8) ahead of him - but he led the team in playoff assists with 5.1 per game.

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