NBA AM: Harden Explodes For The Rockets
James Harden Shows Up Huge: In most cases when a player in the NBA is traded to a new situation, it takes time to adjust. It takes him time to develop a rhythm and chemistry with his new team and to learn the system. James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets on Sunday and had exactly two practices with his new team before opening their season last night in Detroit.
Harden, who just inked a five-year $78 million contract extension, hung massive numbers and put a stamp on his agent’s claims that he is indeed a max contract player, kicking in 37 points on 14-for-25 shooting. He was 4-for-10 from the three point line with 12 assists and four rebounds, but more important than his gaudy stat line was that Houston looked in sync, in rhythm and won the game. Imagine how they’ll look once they get to know each other?
One game is never a true sample of what a team will be, but after seeing Harden in action as a starter and facilitator it’s hard to not imagine what’s possible. It’s also a little easier to justify the contract and the stance Harden and his camp took with Oklahoma City.
“All the talking and craziness that’s been happening, I just wanted to go out there and play basketball,” Harden said to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “We’re going to grow as a team. A lot of guys stepped up, and that’s how it’s going to be throughout this entire season.
“It’s a new role for me. I think everybody knows that. My job is just to do the best that I can, whether it’s in a game, whether it’s practice, off the court, charity events, whatever the case may be. Just be a leader. It’s a new role. It’s going to take time, but I think I prepared for it.”
Harden and the Rockets take the floor Friday in Atlanta. With such an impressive opening act, it will interesting to see if 30-point games become the norm for Harden or if last night’s monster game had more to do with nerves and jitters being released, and a dreadful Pistons defense.
Either way, the Rockets got a lot of bang for their buck last night, if it’s sustainable, it might be time to rethink how you may have ranked the Rockets this season.
Terrence Jones Ready To Play: The Houston Rockets were one of the best games of the night as new Rocket James Harden put on a show, but the strength of the Rockets might just be their depth and a big part of that could be rookie Terrence Jones, who talked with HOOPSWORLD about what he expects this season.
Is Restricted Free Agency A Deterrent Now?: For weeks sources near most of the major 2009 Draft extension eligible players downplayed reaching a deal. In some cases those players turned away talks and offers because the numbers being talked about were so low… and then Denver inked Ty Lawson to a four-year $48 million deal.
With James Harden receiving the max allowed from Houston and Lawson getting roughly $12 million per season from Denver, the market place was quickly set this week and teams that were not overly engaged in contract talks ramped up deals fairly quickly.
The Golden State Warriors inked Steph Curry to a four-year $44 million deal, with GM Bob Myer all but admitting the threat of restricted free agency and his teams’ current cap situation made the risk of losing Curry next summer to an offer greater than the $11 million they offered was a deciding factor in reaching a deal.
“Our group thought about, what are the alternatives to not doing this,” Myers said to Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports. ”Well, there’s a couple. He could become a restricted free agent, and get offered a contract of similar or higher value. He could become a restricted free agent, and we’d choose to go in another direction. We’d have to replace the position, and that’s a hard thing to do with what amount of money we would have had.
“If you look at it on a global level, our options, it wasn’t like if we didn’t do this we’d have the max space to go out and get another guy. We’re thrilled we got the deal done, because we really like him. We really believe in him, and what this does is give us cost certainty in a league that is very uncertain.”
The Philadelphia 76ers reached a four-year extension with guard Jrue Holiday after being turned away by Holiday’s camp after the 76ers made an $8 million incentive-laden offer earlier in the week. After the Lawson and Curry deals set the market for point guards and took names out of the free agent pool, there was a real threat to the 76ers via free agent offers next summer and Philly upped their offer and got a deal done worth roughly $10.25 million per season.
The Bulls also were adamant that they wanted to avoid another restricted free agent circus like they went through last summer with Omer Asik, getting a deal with Taj Gibson in just under the midnight deadline. Gibson’s new deal is worth $38 million over the next four years and locks Gibson into the Bulls for the foreseeable future.
The surprise deal of the day was the Raptors’ decision to extend DeMar DeRozan with a four-year $40 million deal. The Raptors and DeRozan’s camp had a very open and candid dialog for weeks and it just seemed like DeMar was headed to restricted free agency. With most of the major names in the 2009 Draft class dropping deals, the Raptors followed suit.
Throughout the entire process both the teams and the players involved in deals yesterday talked candidly about the fact that the players were ultimately staying where they are regardless of a deal yesterday, however, it seems the threat of a team with cap space driving up the price next summer became real as names fell off the board and both the teams and the players inked deals – some completely unexpected.
There were two notable names that did not get deals and were not expected to get them and that’s Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans and Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings.
Evans said last night that he wasn’t concerned about a deal yesterday. His camp actually welcomes the chance for Tyreke to test his free agent value and possibly find a new situation with a better fit in July.
Jennings on the other hand was hoping that the flurry of last minute deals would land him an extension, but as the deadline passed yesterday he did not get a deal, in fact sources say there was never a serious discussion of one in the price range other guards were getting.
Jennings said hearing his peers in the 2009 Draft class get deals was tough to deal with, especially as the details of those deals started coming out.
“I’m not going to lie; it was tough,” Jennings said to Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel. “You just didn’t know what was going to happen. At the same time, once I got on the court I just didn’t think about it.
“It was more off the court. Then when you hear some of your peers get signed, you kind of get a little down. Now every time you approach those guys, you’ve got to go at ‘em and you’ve got to show ‘em. You’ve got to prove you are the top player in the draft class.
“It’s all good, though.
“I think I just have to play basketball, come here every day and work hard. At the end of the day I’m still under contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I’m still going to get paid so I have to go out there and perform. Just take it for what it is.
“I’m going to just play this year out and do what I have to do here. The main goal is still trying to win, still trying to make the playoffs.
“Then I’ll be able to make my own decision. The main thing is, I could say I’m kind of auditioning for other teams, too. The fact if they see what I can do, what I can bring to the table this year for the Bucks, anything can happen in the summertime.
“Now I’m just going to take it for what it is and ball out, man. Take this as it’s my rookie year again.
“Take it that I’m the fresh meat that nobody’s ever seen play.”
Teams with players who did not extend do have the option of trading them elsewhere, much as Oklahoma City did with James Harden this past weekend. However, the window to extend the rookie deals many of those players are on is closed.
A rookie scale player’s bird rights do go with him in trade, so there is a chance that Sacramento or Milwaukee opts to explore trades involving their would-be free agents rather than play the restricted free agent game, so while some players got commitments and security, some players have uncertainty and speculation ahead of them.
One thing became very clear yesterday, teams are a bit more afraid of restricted free agency than they were just a few years ago when teams used a player’s restricted status to drive the price down, rather than bid against themselves as so many teams did yesterday.
IN RELATED: The most popular question asked yesterday on Twitter as terms of these new deals started coming out was “What was the lockout for?”, as fans expressed outrage at the dollars handed out to marginal or unproven players.
Last year’s NBA lockout was never about trying to control how teams spend money. It was never meant to control how much a team could offer a particular player; it was always about reducing the share of the total revenue pie.
The NBA has always said they wanted teams to have the ability to build teams within a similar framework of dollars and assets. But, if one team wants to give its cookies to one player, that’s their decision.
The lockout was never about that. It was never about franchise tags. It was about adding more dollars to the owner’s side of the equation.
The owners got a better revenue share. They got shorter contract lengths and they got profitability, or at least the ability to obtain profitability.
The lockout was never about stopping Houston from giving a max deal to James Harden, any more than it was about preventing Oklahoma City from cashing him out. It wasn’t about keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando, it was about increasing the share of the pie the owners get, and that was entirely what the lockout was about.
Think you can beat HOOPSWORLD? This season we are doing a “Pick-Em” game where every week you’ll get a chance to pick the winner of eight weekend games. The weekly winner will win a very cool Adidas Climalite HOOPSWORLD t-shirt, either in long sleeve or short. And the player with the most correct picks at the end of the season will get a chance to win an iPad. It’s free to play, and open to anyone. Just click here to sign up and enter your week one picks.
Demps Talks Gordon With NBATV: Hornets’ General Manager Dell Demps was a guest on NBATV’s pregame show yesterday and was asked about the status of Eric Gordon and the state of his team as they prepared to take the floor against the Spurs last night.
There has been a perception, most of it coming from the media, that Eric Gordon never wanted to be a Hornet and that his attempts to get out via restricted free agency we’re not just theater. Gordon has been ruled out of action “indefinitely” due to knee pain, and Demps was asked specifically about Gordon and his commitment to New Orleans.
“A lot of things happen during negotiations,” explained Demps. “The one thing I would say is that Eric, nor his representatives, never asked us for a trade. I saw some of those rumors. Eric was here all last season. He worked out when the season ended. He spent many of his hours working out here before trying out for the USA basketball team. He participated in our offseason workouts; he was one of the first guys to get back here in mid-August. He’s been committed and I think that is unfair, and it’s just speculation.”
The injury to Gordon creates an opportunity for both rookie Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers to get valuable and meaningful development time, something Demps says is all that he is expecting from his rookies.
“We don’t expect those guys as 19, 20 year olds to come in and light the world on fire,” said Demps. “We know they are going to have some up and downs and both of them have showed great promise, but also have made some mistakes early. The key is growing early and learning and getting better. They are not the saviors; they are big part of what we plan to do moving forward but we also think we have a strong core around those guys to have the opportunity to be successful.”
Demps’ team was displaced this summer during to Hurricane Isaac, as their practice facility was being used for Hurricane support, so Demps, who was previously with the San Antonio Spurs arranged for his team to use the Spurs facilities and says his team learned a lot from that experience.
“Earlier in the summer during the storm, we actually left New Orleans and the San Antonio Spurs were gracious enough to allow us use their facilities during Isaac,” said Demps. “Our facilities were being used by the National Guard and were not available so we actually worked out in San Antonio and got an opportunity to watch how pros and champions worked. Our guys really learned a lot during that week; they brought back a lot of lessons they learned in the offseason workouts and during training camp.
“This year is going to be year that we are going to go out there and play hard and we are going to compete every night and we are going to try and win games. It will be interesting to watch our team grow and gel together.”
The Hornets dropped their home opener to the Spurs last night, but top overall pick Anthony Davis looked every bit the part of a franchise player and that will give the Hornets a solid foundation to build on. Now if only Austin Rivers could do better than 1-for-9 from the field, but as Demps said his rookies are not the franchise saviors – yet.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats today starting with my weekly NBA Rumors Chat at 10:30am EST. Get your questions in now as the chats do fill up fast. Senior NBA writer Joel Brigham will host his weekly NBA Chat at 3:00pm EST. Joel covers the Central Division for HOOPSWORLD. You can always find the next chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. If you are looking for a completed chat, check the Chat Archive.