The NBA: LA’s Woes and James Harden’s Star

Kobe and the Lakers dug themselves an early 0-2 hole.
(image by Don Ryan/AP)
By the end of the second game day of the NBA’s 2012-2013 season, a lot of my friends were sobbing (no, really – SOBBING). A lot of my friends, you see, are Laker fans, (a lot of them are Heat fans, too, which at times makes me wonder why I’m friends with them in the first place!!! Haha!!!) and they’re not accustomed to seeing their team go 0-2 to start a season. Now considering how the Lakers built up their roster this year and considering the “lightness” of their first two assignments – a Dirk-less and Kaman-less Mavericks team and a Portland five that didn’t even make the playoffs last year – LA’s golden boys should’ve gone 2-0, right?

SHOULD HAVE. But my LA fanboy buddies shouldn’t despair too much. Sure, the Lakers are 0-10 with the current roster and, maybe worse, Mike Brown is STILL the head coach, but a team that has Kobe, Gasol, Dwight, and Nash is bound to get better. It’s a team bound to win at least 50 of the remaining 80 games. It’s a team, oh, wait, Nash just got injured.


Now for another Western team that made a BIG change – the Houston Rockets.

The ‘12-‘13 Rockets can’t look any more different than they did last year. No Luis Scola. No Chase Budinger. No Kevin Martin. No Kyle Lowry. In their places we have two slightly overrated and overpaid players (Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin), and two slightly underrated guards (Carlos Delfino and James Harden). Of these new faces of the Rockets franchise, Harden has the biggest chance of busting out this year, and that’s exactly what he did against the Detroit Pistons yesterday (37 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 treys – WTF).

The 6’5 combo guard who helped lead the OKC Thunder to the NBA Finals last season is talented enough to carry a team on his broad shoulders, and hungry enough to make a name for himself outside the imposing shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He should reunite with his old superstar teammates as an All-Star this year, especially if he continues to drop numbers similar to what he dropped on the Pistons. It’s worth noting, however, that I think he STILL would’ve been an All-Star had he stayed with OKC.

Oh well, the Thunder’s loss is the Rockets’ gain. And, well, going back to the Lakers, Harden going to Houston and the one-way-player Kevin Martin going to OKC can only be good news. With one third of the Thunder’s own Big Three elsewhere, the West is ripe for the Lakers’ shaking.

Oh, wait, yeah.

Nash is injured.


Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Philadelphia 84, Denver 75
Spencer Hawes recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers spoil Andre Iguodala's homecoming with an 84-75 victory over the Denver Nuggets in the season opener for both teams at Wells Fargo Center. Hawes also registered five blocks, while Jrue Holiday netted 14 points and handed out 11 assists for the new-look Sixers, who were playing without key offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum, who is sidelined indefinitely with a right knee injury. Iguodala, who was shipped to Denver in the four-team deal that landed Bynum in Philadelphia, spent his first eight seasons in the City of Brotherly Love after the club used the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft to select the University of Arizona product. The All-Star swingman finished with 11 points, while Ty Lawson led the way with 16 points and seven assists for the Nuggets, who finished 38-28 last season before losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Spencer Hawes continues his strong
play from last season.
(image by H. Rumph, Jr./AP)

Indiana 90, Toronto 88
George Hill floated home the go-ahead bucket with 2.1 seconds remaining as the Indiana Pacers rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to upend the Toronto Raptors, 90-88, in the season opener for both teams at Air Canada Centre. David West carried the offensive load with a game-high 25 points for the Pacers, who finished 42-24 last season and were beaten in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the eventual champion Miami Heat. Paul George contributed a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert added 14 points and nine boards in the victory. Kyle Lowry, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets in the offseason, paid immediate dividends for the Raptors with a team-high 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Andrea Bargnani scored 16 points, while Jose Calderon donated 15 points off the bench in the defeat for Toronto, which finished 23-43 in 2011-12. Jonas Valanciunas contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds.

David West will shoot more now that
Danny Granger is out indefinitely.
(image by Tony Dejak/AP)

Houston 105, Detroit 96
James Harden made sure his debut with the Houston Rockets would be one to remember. The newly acquired guard posted a game-high 37 points and 12 assists to lead the new-look Rockets to a 105-96 win over the Detroit Pistons in the regular season opener for both teams. Harden, who was dealt to the Rockets in a multi-player deal on Saturday, also had six rebound, four steals and knocked down 4-of-10 3-pointers. Harden's new backcourt mate, Jeremy Lin, had 12 points and 8 assists while Carlos Delfino added 15 points and seven boards off the bench for Houston, which has beaten the Pistons in seven of its last eight matchups. Brandon Knight paced Detroit with 15 points and Greg Monroe added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons, who look to bounce back from a woeful 25-41 finish last season.

James Harden should be an All-Star this year.
(image by Duane Burlston/AP)

Chicago 93, Sacramento 87
A balanced scoring attack in the absence of Derrick Rose is what the Chicago Bulls were looking for, and that's exactly what they got in a 93-87 season-opening win over the Sacramento Kings. Joakim Noah totaled 23 points and 10 rebounds, Carlos Boozer added 18 and eight and Richard Hamilton netted 19 points in the victory. Kirk Hinrich, starting at point guard with Rose still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Chicago's first playoff game last April, shot just 1-for-7 from the floor but handed out seven assists and only committed two turnovers. Tyreke Evans scored 21 points to lead the Kings, who have finished in last place in the Pacific Division the past four seasons. Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins added 15 and 14 points, respectively, in the loss.

San Antonio 99, New Orleans 95
Tony Parker drained a 3-pointer late and Tim Duncan netted a pair of free throws to secure the victory, as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the New Orleans Hornets, 99-95, in the season opener for both teams. Parker, who finished with 23 points and six assists, buried a three with 49.6 remaining to give San Antonio a 97-95 lead. Duncan powered the Spurs late in the fourth, scoring nine of San Antonio's final 12 points. He scored a game- high 24 points and also pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. Anthony Davis, the top overall draft pick in 2012, did not disappoint for the Hornets in his regular season debut. He led New Orleans with 21 points on 6- of-12 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds. However, fellow rookie teammate Austin Rivers struggled most of the night, shooting just 1-of-9, scoring seven points.

Utah 113, Dallas 94
Mo and Marvin Williams combined for 42 points on Wednesday, leading the Utah Jazz to a 113-94 thumping of the Dallas Mavericks at EnergySolutions Arena. Mo Williams finished with 21 points and six assists, while Marvin Williams ended his night with 21 points and a trio of rebounds for the Jazz, who went 36-30 last season and lost in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs. Paul Millsap netted 13 points and ripped down 15 rebounds, and Al Jefferson contributed a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds in the victory. Darren Collison led the Mavericks with 17 points and seven assists, while Brandan Wright added 15 points in the setback. Vince Carter and O.J. Mayo scored 12 points apiece for the Mavs, who opened their 2012-13 campaign with a 99-91 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Golden State 87, Phoenix 85
Carl Landry scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and scored the go-ahead basket with 1:22 left as the Golden State Warriors edged the Suns by an 87-85 count in the season opener for both teams at US Airways Center. Landry made good on 7-of-9 field goal attempts overall for the Warriors, who have now won two straight in Phoenix since ending a 13-game road losing streak in this series last February. Klay Thompson added 16 points in the triumph, while Brandon Rush contributed 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench. Goran Dragic, signed by the Suns as a free agent to fill Steve Nash's spot after the two-time NBA MVP joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, totaled a team-best 17 points and dished out eight assists. Luis Scola, another newcomer to a revamped Phoenix squad, posted a double- double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in his first outing with his new club.

LA Clippers 101, Memphis 92
Jamal Crawford poured in 29 points on 10- of-14 shooting in his Clippers debut, masking slow season openers by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Los Angeles' 101-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in a chippy rematch of last season's first-round playoff matchup. The Clippers outlasted the Grizzlies in seven games last postseason, and Wednesday's meeting was appropriately decided in the closing minutes. Paul and Griffin each made just 4-of-10 from the field to net 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the win. Paul also dished out 12 assists, while his backup, Eric Bledsoe, added 13 points off the bench. Rudy Gay led Memphis with 25 points, Marc Gasol scored 20 and Zach Randolph totaled 15 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.

Portland 116, LA Lakers 106
Nicolas Batum had 26 points and six rebounds and sixth overall pick Damian Lillard registered 23 points and 11 assists in the Portland Trail Blazers' 116-106 thumping the Lakers. Wesley Matthews added 22 points for the Blazers, who turned 25 turnovers into 28 points. After missing on 11 of his 14 free-throw attempts on Tuesday in the Lakers' opener, Dwight Howard nailed 15-of-19 from the charity stripe and tallied a game-high 33 points and 14 rebounds. Kobe Bryant added 30 points and six boards, but committed seven turnovers for Los Angeles, which has started the year 0-2 following an 0-8 preseason. Steve Nash left the game with a left leg injury in the third and did not return.

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