Posts Tagged ‘Chris Paul’

Do Not Drink the Rocket Kool-Aid, Just Yet

Monday, March 5th, 2018

by Gus Griffin






The Houston Rockets are very very good! Their winning streak is at 15 and counting. They have the best record in basketball, which if maintained would give them home court throughout the playoffs. They have won two of three from the defending champion Warriors. James Harden would get my vote for MVP up to this point.

Yet, if you tell me that Houston Rocket Kool-Aid taste like a team that will win the NBA title, I am just not ready to drink.

In no particular order, I am going to outline the four reasons why I refuse to drink:

When has a Mike D’Antoni coached team played enough defense to be a threat to win an NBA title? The answer is NEVER! It is a highly entertaining brand of basketball, without a doubt. His teams remind me of Big 12 college football teams; high scoring, very little defense, and as much as you may want to believe that they can win it all, you know in your heart of hearts, they will not beat defensive-minded SEC teams.

Another concern is that no eventual champion team has ever blown a 26-point lead to lose a game as the Rockets did earlier in the year to Boston. Some will cite the Cavaliers blowing the same lead last year against the Hawks. The difference is that they blew that after having won a title. It is indefensible in either case but Cleveland already achieved the essential goal. Houston has not reached that level.

Yet another reason is James Harden’s Game 6-elimination performance against San Antonio last year. After a disappointing overtime loss in game 5, in which Harden was great with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. After averaging 20 shots in the first 5 games, at home in game 6 he only took 11 shots, making 2 to score 10 points. It is one thing to go 9 of 30 with the season on the line. At least we could say he left everything on the floor. However, this effort, in my mind, can only be classified as quitting. We have seen great regular season performers across sports that simply did not duplicate the performance in the post season. The best example is Dodgers Ace Clayton Kershaw. Even as a die-hard Giants fan, I freely acknowledge Kershaw as being the best….regular season pitcher in baseball. In the playoffs, he has simply been subpar.

The last reason, which if I were ordering would be the first: The Golden State Warriors. We should not over think this folks. If not for Draymond Green’s suspension in The Finals two years ago, the Warriors likely would be pursuing their fourth straight NBA title.  That ain’t luck. The simple reality is that they are that much better than everyone else. It is the only team that need not play its best to win it all this year. Health is a far greater threat than the Rockets or any other team, to the Warriors.

We have seen with LeBron James, especially in 2015, that even a Herculean effort by a team’s best player can at best stretch the series to six games….and that was before Durant came to Golden State. Even if you believe Harden is ready to play at that level, why would you believe it would be enough?

So in spite of these reasons to doubt, why are so many ready to crown the Rockets? I suspect it is Golden State Warrior fatigue. As sports fans, we prefer some degree of suspense about who will eventually wear the crown. With that in mind, people want to believe that there is a worthy challenger. In wanting that, many do what the human mind often does, which is to embellish evidence to validate its hopes.

What is the evidence that the Rockets are ready? The addition of Chris Paul? He is a great player and I believe is unfairly blamed for the failure of his teams to advance in the playoffs……but the fact is that they have not. Would it be the 15 game winning streak? Excluding this year’s Celtics, 11 other teams in NBA history have won 15 straight that did not win the title. James Harden? How can you trust him after San Antonio last year?

Therefore, as much as I want a worthy challenger for the title, I am holding off on anointing the Rockets as the answer. Maybe I should have been born in Missouri because you have to SHOW ME and the Rockets have not done so yet.


Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

By Jason Parker

The King is dead.  Long live the King!

Or should I say The Kaiser?  King James, with a little boot in the backside from Dirk Nowitzki and a brand of defense the likes of which Mavericks fans have never seen, has abdicated his NBA throne to the “Ghost-Faced Drilla” from Wurzberg, Germany.  That’s right, the man so many had perhaps unjustly labeled soft and unable to lead a team to a championship now sits in the top spot of The Association’s monarchy. 

Mavericks’ legend Mark Aguirre paid Dirk perhaps the highest compliment, “Answer me this: If you switched Dirk with Wade, or Dirk with LeBron, would the Mavs be in the Finals?  No way.”

I must admit, during the first half of the series-clinching Game 6 victory, I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to publish this article; what with Nowitzki languishing in an unfathomable 1-12 shooting funk.  But like so many times before, when the stakes were highest, Dirk was at his best, shrugging off the slump to seal the victory with five clutch buckets in the last 7:22 of the game.

“We’re world champions,” Nowitzki said after taking a private moment to wipe away a few tears of joy in the locker room.  “It sounds unbelievable.”

It wasn’t always this way.  I’ve been an avid Dirk defender over the years, but there have been moments when he just wasn’t able to put this team on his back and lead them over the hump.  In the final three games of the 2006 Finals, Dirk went 20-55 and missed a number of key free throws down the stretch.  In 2007, his MVP season, Nowitzki shot 38% from the field (2-13 in the clinching Game 6) as the Mavs became the first #1 seed to fall to a #8 (Golden State) in a seven-game series.  2008 saw another first-round playoff exit against Chris Paul and the upstart Charlotte Hornets.  The next two seasons would end with second and first round losses, respectively.

This year, there was something different about Dirk.  Perhaps galvanized by past failures, Nowitzki would not be denied.  After a pedestrian regular season by his standards, Dirk turned it up a couple of notches once the playoffs started, playing his best basketball when it mattered most.  When the Mavericks needed a big bucket or clutch free throws to overcome a huge deficit or seal a victory, Dirk delivered.  He was clearly the best player in a postseason that culminated in a championship.     

LeBron's series was sub-par by his standards

Now on to the man Nowitzki supplanted as king.  Last season, in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Lebron James looked up and came to the perhaps premature realization that no matter how good he played, no matter how many spectacular dunks he threw down, he could never win a championship with the collection of talent around him in Cleveland—so he checked out of the series mentally, and the Cavaliers quickly followed suit.  Lebron will deny it, but if it looks like a duck, sounds like and duck, smells like a duck…

Fast forward a little over a year to the NBA Finals, and the situation is very different, but it’s also the same.  Lebron is a member of the most talented (if not the deepest) team in the league, yet he frequently distanced himself from the front lines of this pitched battle for the NBA Championship, deferring to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh whenever possible. Actually, James’ fourth-quarter game of hot potato throughout the series was worse than deference, it was desertion.  Pat Riley, Wade and Bosh, are thinking of asking for a $14.5 million refund.  They’re thinking they recruited the wrong superstar.

James was not gracious in defeat, lashing out at his and the Heat’s critics:

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal,” James said. “But they’ll have to get back to the real world at some point.”    

James’ latest big-moment disappearing act prompts us to reevaluate his motives for running out on his home-town-team instead of sticking it out through good times and bad, for better or worse (a-la a certain seven-foot German). Lebron claimed he joined Wade and Bosh in Miami so he could win multiple championships, but now there appears to be more to the equation than that.  It looks more like Bron-Bron couldn’t bear the burden of leadership, of being his team’s hoops messiah.  How else can you explain his habit of fading, no, sprinting into the background when the spotlight is squarely focused on him and him alone?

Compare this to the play of Nowitzki and his own teammate, Dwyane Wade, who combines physical brilliance with mental fortitude and inspirational leadership.  Wade demands the ball at the end of games and James is all too willing to give it to him, especially on the game’s biggest stage.  Confession:  I wrote two versions of this article; the one you are reading, and one proclaiming Wade king if the Heat had won the series.

To be fair, perhaps LeBron James never wanted this mantle that was foisted upon him at the age of 18.  He never dubbed himself “King.”  Whether he wanted it or not, as the most physically-dominant player this game has seen since Wilt Chamberlain, the crown was his to wear.  But now it appears that it was too heavy for those chiseled shoulders to bear.  Who knows, maybe by the time the Kaiser is ready to cede the throne in a few years, LeBron will be ready to take it back.  He need only look at the evolution of one Dirk Nowitzki to find a role model.

But until then, the Mavericks and their fans hope to win another title or two during Dirk’s reign.    

Jason Parker, Blogger for War Room Sports


Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Since we spoke about the business side of sports on the October 14th episode of  The War Room (the best Marshall Faulkin sports show on the web PERIOD), I figured I’d address something that I believe will be very bad for NBA business in the coming years.  We all know about the drama and eventual backlash from Lebron’s “decision” this summer.  But “punk move” aside, I think this move will start a trend that will ultimately prove cancerous for NBA business.  Here’s how most people I’ve talked to look at this…”This is great for the NBA because people are talking about the league during the offseason and eagerly anticipating the season”, blah, blah, blah.  That is such a shortsighted view.  Here’s how I see it…Many teams in the NBA, and players for that matter, are already unwatchable.  The league needs to be contracted and not continually expanded, as it has been for the past two decades.  In a 24 hour span, Chris Bosh and Lebron James effectively and instantly made two more NBA teams completely unwatchable.  Cleveland WILL…not might, but WILL end a streak of Quicken Loans Arena sell-outs maintained during the Lebron James era.  Toronto on the other hand, wasn’t the most watchable team in the league to begin with, but the only reason we may have had to ever tune in to a Raptors game is now gone.

Because of the recent “Heat wave” in Miami, we already have other superstars such as Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and maybe Amare Stoudemire contemplating “superteaming” up to form their own version of Voltron in New York.  This will certainly put the pressure on other superstars to follow suit in order to compete.  Where would this leave a league already in need of contraction?…already filled with sub-NBA-quality talent?…already full of teams and players that NOBODY wants to watch?  With all of the league’s FEW superstars eventually ending up on 3 or 4 teams, what does that do to even the POSSIBILITY of parity in the NBA?  With Lebron and Bosh bolting now, and CP3 and Melo’s escape from self-perceived “purgatory” most likely on the horizon for next year (if they don’t force trades THIS YEAR), how will Cleveland, Toronto, Denver, and New Orleans even come close to filling their buildings?  The only chance that a VERY high percentage of NBA teams have of selling out their arenas this year and in years moving forward, is when the Lakers, Heat, Celtics, and MAYBE Magic and Thunder come to town.  What MANY fans and even some NBA officials fail to understand is that a huge buzz for this NBA season isn’t a great buzz if people are only buzzing about two teams.

In conclusion, with players having the absolute right to “superteam” up if they so choose, there is really nothing that can be done about this budding trend.  All we can hope…those of us who care of course…is that the REST OF the cream of the NBA crop would develop a higher level of pride than that shown from the “best player on the planet”.     


 Devin “Dev” McMillan of The War Room, for War Room Sports