NBA AM: Revenge On Agenda For James Harden?
The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder will meet for the first time since their surprising trade before the start of the season on Wednesday night. Spurred by their inability to reach a contract agreement with reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, the Thunder dealt the guard to the Rockets in exchange for veteran wing Kevin Martin, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb and draft picks.
The Rockets received an All-Star caliber player in Harden who has helped to re-energize their fan base and the Thunder received financial flexibility for the future and numerous assets to continue building their talent pipeline.
For most, the trade came out of left field which would lead you to believe Harden will be playing with an added bit of motivation when the teams clash, but according to the explosive guard that will not be the case and he is viewing the contest as just another game.
“I’m on the road trying to get a win,” Harden said to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s no different than when we played at Memphis or Atlanta or whatever the case may be.
“It will be good to see some faces, some old teammates and coaches. They’re all my family. I look forward to every single game I play. It’s just another game.”
Harden is quickly emerging as one of the most polished guys in the league when dealing with the media. After dropping 45 points in an early season road win versus the Atlanta Hawks, Harden quickly deferred to all of his teammates for the success.
But veteran guard Daequan Cook, who was also traded to Houston in the deal, doesn’t buy the notion Harden is just approaching the contest as just another game. Cook believes Harden is gearing up
“He’s going to be in a different zone,” Cook said. “At the end of the day, if anybody knows, I know this game means a lot to him. He’s going to want to play his best basketball. This game means so much right now to him. You’re going to see a different mindset with him. It’s going to be crazy, man. Crazy emotional and very energetic on both sides of the floor for both teams.”
It isn’t out of the range of possibility that the two teams could eventually meet in the first round of the playoffs. Oklahoma City currently sits third in the Western Conference while Houston currently holds the eighth and final seed.
For example, using the team’s current seeds, they could match up as a one versus eight matchup as Oklahoma City is just one game behind the top seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
Another alternative could see the teams meet as a three versus six seed matchup. The Rockets are just a half game behind the sixth seeded Denver Nuggets.
Lots of basketball remaining to be played, of course, but this could be the start of a decent rivalry.
Marco Belinelli On The Outs In Chicago?
The Chicago Bulls significantly reshaped their reserve unit during the offseason and one of the moves was the signing of shooting guard Marco Belinelli to a one-year, $1.9 million deal. On paper the deal appeared solid as Belinelli had successfully worked his way into becoming a nightly double-digit scorer and full-time starter during his last two seasons with the New Orleans Hornets.
But the start of the season has yielded a completely different result with Belinelli struggling to find a rhythm and adjusting to the new system in Chicago. Belinelli wants to play more to in order to find his groove, but the sixth year guard has been losing his rotation minutes to second year forward Jimmy Butler as of late.
“For sure I want to play more,” Belinelli said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I’m comfortable with my shot, but I’m not playing much,” he said. “It’s a bummer for me, but the NBA is like this. So I work extra before and after practice and try to be ready when I go to the court. I’m trying to play the best game I can.”
Despite the sharp reduction of minutes as of late Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau believes Belinelli is doing fine but needs to bide his time.
“He’s doing fine,” Thibodeau said. “He’s still learning. He just has to be patient.”
Belinelli admits losing his spot in the team’s rotation has been tough to deal with as of late.
“It’s not easy,” Belinelli said. “When you don’t play, there’s nothing to say. I’m not a rookie. My first year was tough for me. But I don’t think I’ve played this little since then.”
Belinelli is currently averaging the lowest points per game since his rookie campaign (4.8) and shooting the worst percentage from the floor as a professional (38 percent).
Dallas Mavericks Bench Darren Collison
The Dallas Mavericks currently have a 12-season playoff streak going, but if the postseason started today the team would be on the outside looking in at the festivities. During times of struggle you can undoubtedly expect some sort of change.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle surprisingly decided to remove starting point guard Darren Collison from the team’s starting lineup prior to Tuesday’s game versus the Philadelphia 76ers.
Collison, who has served as the team’s starting point guard all season, wasn’t too pleased with his coach’s decision to look in another direction.,
“Am I happy about the situation? Nah,” Collison said according to the Star-Telegram. “I know how hard I worked, and I’m still going to try to lead this team to victories in the near future, and I’m still going to try to make an impact like I tried to do today.”
Collison finished the contest with 12 points, six assists and five steals while logging 30 minutes of action (season average is 32.7). Collison says his motivation is on winning and wouldn’t let the relegation to the bench become a distraction.
But to be honest, my motivation was just winning the game,” Collison added. “I really just wanted to come in the game and just try to help my teammates out. I’m not in for all that drama stuff.”
After the game Carlisle admitted Collison was still his starting point guard, but felt the team needed a different look.
“He’s our starting point guard, but tonight he came off the bench,” Carlisle said. “(Current Celtics guard) Jason Terry was our starting two-guard, but he came off the bench for four years, so it’s not that big a deal. The big deal is that we’ve got to quit doing the things that are making us shoot ourselves in the foot.”
The Mavericks have now dropped seven of their last 10 games and currently sit ninth in the Western Conference standings.
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