John Hollinger of ESPN.com on his all-breakout team: “James Harden benefited from playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, right? It makes sense, anyway. It seems like this should be true, as these are the only two other dynamic offensive players on the Oklahoma City Thunder, and one would presume that all the attention they draw would make life easier for Harden. And thus, one would presume that he will have a hard time playing without those two now that he’s with the Houston Rockets. There’s only one problem: This theory holds less water than the Sahara. Harden didn’t benefit from playing with KD and Russ. In fact, the exact opposite is true.”
Incredible breakdown between Harden and Kevin Martin by Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland: “One thing that is commonly overlooked in shooting evaluations is the basic ability to get shots. Dunks and layups are the most efficient shots on the floor, but for most players, they are hard to come by. Harden is great not just because he makes shots at high rates, but also because he creates the type of shots convertible at those rates. Not many guards in the NBA can generate effective close-range chances in the face of the defense as frequently as Harden, and this area represents the biggest gap between Harden and probable replacement Kevin Martin. Last season, 42 percent of Harden’s field goal attempts were close to the rim, and he made 62 percent of them. For Martin, only 20 percent of his field goals were in this area, and he made only 53 percent of them. This means fewer layups, dunks, and free throws for the Thunder, but more for the Rockets.”
A quick thought on Harden’s game last night: Judging the Harden trade based on his production is stupid. Because the Thunder knew Harden was good. Better than anyone. That had absolutely zero to do with them trading him. If you don’t understand that, then you really don’t get this situation at all. Harden showed off everything Thunder fans knew about him Wednesday. He scored, he dished, he created — he was fantastic. He just got to do it all in a much more prominent role.
Also, I wrote about Harden’s debut for CBSSports.com. One thing I’d say to top it off: I think the official stance for Thunder fans should be root for Harden to do well, hope the Rockets suck.
Berry Tramel on chemistry: “Now, I still think OKC will emerge with home court advantage. The Thunder will play with a chip on its shoulder all season, recalling the NBA Finals disappointment. Plus, the Thunder is too young to know better. While the San Antonios and the Lakers realize the regular season exists to merge with new teammates and start peaking when springtime arrives, the Thunder still treats every game like it’s San Juan Hill. That should be enough to get the Thunder the top seed. But then come the playoffs, which very well could be determined by who has integrated its newcomer(s) best. The Lakers with Nash and Howard; the Thunder with Kmart. On the Thunder side, the starting five remains intact. That’s novel in this fluid league.”
Every fan of the NBA. I didn’t find it that funny, but the Thunder one was pretty good.
Tramel on Ibaka vs. Harden: “The truth is, you don’t want to be without Harden or Ibaka. The Thunder would take Harden over K-Mart. And if you’re asking which you would rather keep, if you had to pick just one, Harden is a suitable answer. The chemistry and fraternity he had with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was rare and charming. But the question has been answered. It’s much easier to replace James Harden than it would be to replace Serge Ibaka.”
Chris Palmer of ESPN.com on glue guys: “Whether accepting a role off the bench or getting his numbers without disrupting Durant and Westbrook’s production, Harden’s unselfishness was vital to Oklahoma City’s team chemistry. Players like Harden are invaluable to the overall makeup of a successful NBA team. The pieces of a championship puzzle don’t fit together properly unless unsung role players can lock them into place.”
Construction has begun on KD’s new restaurant: “The upscale Southern cuisine restaurant will feature Durant’s favorites including chicken satay, popcorn lobster, honey-dipped fried chicken, center cut pork chops, blackened catfish stuffed with crab meat and shrimp, slow-smoked barbecue ribs, chicken and shrimp jambalaya as well as a variety of steaks, seafood and desserts. KD’s will also feature a complete wine list and specialty drink menu.”