Tag Archives: James Harden

NBA Playoffs Preview (Round 1)

 NBA Playoffs Round One:

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Click on each link to take you to each preview/prediction…

Raptors (4) vs. Wizards (5)

Ryan Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-E8)

Players To Watch:

Lou Williams, Paul Pierce, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan

Warriors (1) vs. Pelicans (8)

 Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ek)

Players To Watch: Andrew Bogut, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday

Bulls (3) vs. Bucks (6)

 Fort:  (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ee)

Players To Watch: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, The Greek Freak, O.J. Mayo

Rockets (2) vs. Mavericks (7)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ef)

R’Mon Allen:

Players To Watch: Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden

Cavaliers (2) vs. Celtics (7)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Eg)

Allen: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-ED)

Players To Watch: Evan Turner, I.Thomas, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving

Hawks (1) vs. Nets (8)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Eh)

Players To Watch: DeRon Williams, Joe Johnson, Jeff Teague, Brook Lopez

Blazers (4) vs Grizzlies (5)

Fort: ( http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ei)

Players To Watch: Whoever isn’t injured

Clippers (3) vs Spurs (6)

Fort: (http://wp.me/p33YLP-Ej)

Allen:

Players To Watch: CP3, K.Leonard, D.Jordan, Tony Parker

Follow us on Twitter:
@Fortonsportsinc , @RyanDFort & @RmonAllen for live tweets during each game.

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Rockets (2) vs Mavericks (7) Preview : City Tension

Houston Rockets (56-26) vs. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)

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Dating back to the T-Mac & Yao collapse against Dallas, maybe even before then the Mavs and Rockets have had a huge disdain for each other. The owners dislike each other. The players dislike each other. Simply put, everyone within each organization dislikes the other. Basketball aside these two cities often get in disputes on which city is the best in Texas. This matchup gives us our first series that features two rivals……. Man this is going to be fun.

The Rockets haven’t been healthy for most of the season and made a few in season acquisitions to shake up an injury riddled roster. Houston brought in power-forward Josh Smith and ex-Maverick (championship squad) Corey Brewer. MVP candidate James Harden kept the Rockets afloat while Dwight Howard was out of the lineup due to a few nagging injuries. With Harden playing at an MVP level, Brewer and Smith leading the bench and Dwight Howard back from injury the Rockets are going to be a tough out.

The Mavericks, like the Rockets, also made a few moves. The Mavs traded for point guard Rajon Rondo and signed forward Amare’ Stoudamire mid way through the season. Before the trade the Mavs were arguably the best offensive team in basketball. After the trade however, the Mavs took a step back in all aspects of the game. With that being said the Mavericks finished the season on a minor role going 4-1 in their last five games.

Starters:

PG: J.Terry vs. R.Rondo

SG: J.Harden vs. M.Ellis

SF: T.Ariza vs C.Parsons

PF: D.Montiejunas vs. D.Nowitzki

C: D.Howard vs. T.Chandler

Mark Cuban has already started the war of words. He claimed Houston wasn’t a good team outside of James Harden and they are a very predictable foe….. Back during free agency Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, said that Chandler Parsons wasn’t a max guy and basically dissed him. To rev things up even more the Rockets traded for ex-Mav Jason Terry knowing they had intentions of bringing him back….

During the regular season the Rockets beat the Mavericks 3 out of 4 times. The games were competitive but Harden just seemed to be too much for the Mavs. There shouldn’t be much stock put into that record though knowing the Mavs are a different club in the postseason.

Keys:

Houston

The Rockets are an explosive team that relies on shooting the three and getting to the free throw line. In this specific series they can’t be a run and gun team. They have to defend and dominate the inside. If Dwight can have his way with Chandler and he dominates the glass the Mavs won’t be able to pose much of a threat. (Horrible rebounding squad.) The Mavericks also don’t have a player that can guard Harden one on one. His size alone is another aspect of the game Houston should take advantage of.

Dallas

The Mavericks are a better offensive and defensive team than the Rockets. The main problem they have is being consistent. In order to beat the Rockets the Mavericks need to force someone other than Harden to score. If they can make shots consistently, rebound and defend Harden the Mavericks will win the series. It’s time for playoff Rondo and playoff Rick Carlisle. If Carlisle’s schemes are being run to near perfection and Rondo is right this series will end quickly.

Prediction Mavericks upset the Rockets 4-2. The Mavericks have more experience and in my eyes just might be the better team in general. Houston lives and dies by the three and they have no clear cut 2nd option to be exact. Harden still has to prove himself to be a playoff guy and Dwight has to prove he’s serious about winning. Too much trying to prove and won’t be enough doing. The Mavericks have it.

NBA Awards 2014-15

Most Valuable Player Award:

 

James Harden: 27.6 ppg, 5.7 reb, and 6.9 apg

Steph Curry: 24.0 ppg, 7.7 ast, 2.0 stl, 48% FG, and 44% 3pt

Russell Westbrook: 28.0 ppg, 8.6 ast, 7.3 reb, and 2.1 stl

Ashimi: I’m not going to go as far as calling James Harden the new “King James,” however with the season he’s having this year I can’t argue with anyone who does. His ability to score this season surpassed every other MVP candidate, and his awareness on offense seems to be improving every year. James Harden has continued to improve his game and confidence every year, and this year Harden has proven to me that he is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

Hornback: I’m actually of the belief that we should have co-MVPs this year. Curry is THE reason the Warriors are where they are, and Harden has proven to everyone he can carry a team to an elite level. Also, both players have shown a knack to close out games.

Fort: I’m going against the grain here on my pick…Give me Russell Westbrook. He’s having to do everything himself without much help. Rebounding, scoring, facilitating, defending EVERYTHING. If he hadn’t have a missed the games that he did OKC would easily be the playoffs… Take Westbrook away from OKC and they wouldn’t be a 25 win team (including the injuries that is.) If not Westbrook for MVP, give me AD for the exact same reasons. San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

Carter: Stephen Curry is personally an easy choice for the NBA’s MVP. He’s scoring extremely efficiently and also has led his team to the best record in the extremely tough Western Conference. Curry may have the better surrounding cast, but that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.

Most Improved Player of the Year:

 

Jimmy Butler: 

2013-2014 Stats: 13.1 ppg, 4.9 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.9 stl, .5 blk, 39.7% FG, 28.3% 3pt, and 76.9% FT

2014-2015 Stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.8 reb, 3.3 ast, 1.8 stl, .5 blk, 46.2% FG, 36.6% 3pt, and 84.3% FT

Ashimi: Jimmy Butler has evolved from a player strictly known for his exceptional defense to a lockdown defender who is also an offensive threat. Now that he added offense to his game, he has become an elite player and an important part of the Chicago Bulls’ offense and defense. His stats show his improvement in just one short year and he still has room to improve.

Hornback: I’ve always been a fan of Jimmy Butler as a workhorse and a defensive player. Never did I expect him to come out being a focal point of Chicago’s offense like he became this year. He has shown some star (not superstar quite yet) potential this year.

Fort: I’m going against the grain here again by saying Hassan Whiteside. He was no where to be found last season & then all of a sudden he blew up. In 2011 he basically averaged 2pts 2reb & 1blk. This season he’s essentially averaging 12pts 10reb & 3blks while also recording triple-doubles and breaking Heat rebounding records. Huge jump from a player few knew about going into this season.Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls

Carter: Butler has tremendously stepped up his game and has earned my vote. Now with a good offensive game paired with his great defense, Butler has emerged as a star. He deserves this award for helping shoulder the load following Derrick Rose’s injuries.

Sixth Man:

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Jamal Crawford: 16.2 ppg, 2.0 reb, and 2.5 ast

Isaiah Thomas: 16.5 ppg, 4.2 ast(entire season) 19.5 ppg, 5.4apg(time with the Celtics)

Lou Williams: 15.5 ppg, 1.8 reb, 2.0 ast

Ashimi: This category is tough, but I have to give it to Jamal Crawford because there have been many games this season in which his spark off the bench lead to a Clipper’s win.

Hornback: I said from the very beginning that Isaiah Thomas would win 6th man before the season started and I’m sticking to that. He should be a starter in my opinion, and is averaging numbers better than most starting point guards in the East. He’s even leading the Celtics to the playoffs.

Fort: Thomas is the obvious pick in my opinion. He’s leading Boston to the playoffs and doesn’t have the same caliber of talent around him like the other candidates. The game would be easier for him if he had just a tad bit more help.

Carter: Lou Williams has been helping Toronto in many ways especially in scoring once DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry went down. He’s been having a career year coming off the bench, and was essential to some team wins by cutting down on his turnovers.

Rookie of the Year:

 

Andrew Wiggins: 16.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.9 apg

Ashimi: Personally few rookies really stood out to me this year. Orlando’s Elfrid Peyton was one rookie that stood out, however Wiggins is statistically better.

Hornback: I want to go with Mirotic but because he has not done this all year, I’m going to have to go with Wiggins because all year long he’s been consistent. Sad year as we didn’t get to see the full potential of Jabari Parker or Julius Randle. With them, this race could’ve been much more competitive.

Fort: Wiggins…. But as a fan of the Lakers Jordan Clarkson isn’t too far behind. He’s kept the Lakers in most games (that he’s played in) and has been a better overall player than Wiggins & company…. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to see Randle, Embiid or Parker because they would’ve had cases as well. clarkson

Per 36 Minutes:

Wiggins – 16.8ppg  4.5reb 2.1ast 43.6 FG% 31.5 3pt%

Clarkson -17.1ppg 5.0ast 4.7reb 44.8 FG% 31.4 3pt%

Mirotic – 18.2ppg  8.8reb 2.1ast 40.7 FG% 31.7 3pt%

Payton – 10.7ppg  7.7reb 5.1ast 42.7 FG% 26.8 3pt%

Noel – 11.6ppg  2.0ast 9.5reb 2.1stl 2.2blk 46.2 FG%

Carter: Minnesota has had a bright spot this season in Andrew Wiggins. He’s averaged the most points and has had the most 30+ point games out of all rookies. An easy choice for Rookie of the Year, although Mirotic has had a great second half of the season.

Defensive Player of the Year:

 

Anthony Davis: 24.3 ppg, 2.9 blk, 10.2 reb and 1.5 stl

Ashimi: This was another tough category. One player that stood out to me on defense, besides Davis, this season is Joakim Noah. He has been a defensive anchor for the Bulls this season, however Davis has been the best individual defensive player this season. He is literally 7 steals away from recording 100 steals and 100 blocks this year.

Hornback: Defensive player of the year was hard for me. If I considered the latter half of the year I’d more than likely take Rudy Gobert but over the course of the year I’ll take Anthony Davis. Always been a defensive force getting in passing lanes and sending shots to the cheap seats. 

Fort: Anthony Davis. He’s a monster in every aspect of the game. He dominates the game offensively and still has enough energy to be impactful on the opposite end. That hard to find in bigs today.

Carter: Anthony Davis should have been an easy choice. Although he’s been dominant on both sides of the ball, his defense makes the biggest impact in games. He’s such a presence in the paint that teams actively avoid him.

All NBA First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. James Harden
  3. LeBron James
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Pau Gasol

Hornback:

  1. Steph Curry
  2. James Harden
  3. LeBron James
  4. Anthony Davis

5. Demarcus Cousins

Fort:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. Steph Curry
  3. James Harden
  4. LeBron James
  5. Anthony Davis

Carter:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. James Harden
  4. LeBron James
  5. Anthony Davis

 

All NBA Second Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Damian Lillard
  3. Kevin Durant
  4. LaMarcus Aldridge
  5. Demarcus Cousins

Hornback:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. John Wall
  3. Lamarcus Aldridge
  4. Pau Gasol
  5. Marc Gasol

Fort:

  1. Chris Paul
  2. John Wall
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge
  4. Pau Gasol
  5. DeMarcus Cousins

Carter:

1. Chris Paul

  1. John Wall
  2. Lamarcus Aldridge
  3. Pau Gasol
  4. Tim Duncan

 

All Defensive First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Jimmy Butler
  3. Kawhi Leonard
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Joakim Noah

Hornback:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Tony Allen
  3. Draymond Green
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Rudy Gobert

Fort:

  1. John Wall
  2. Jeff Teague
  3. Tony Allen
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Joakim Noah

Carter:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Kawhi Leonard
  3. Draymond Green
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Deandre Jordan

 

All Rookie First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Hornback:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Fort:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Carter:

  1. Elfrid Payton
  2. Jordan Clarkson
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

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For The Fans:

Which player surprised you the most this season?

Who’s your coach of the year?

Who’s your executive of the year?

Comment your picks and winners below!

Follow us on Twitter
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@Deshawnhornback
@ayemrcarter24
@RyanDFort

Kobe Bryant: Facing A Reality

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THE INTRO

When I first started watching basketball, Michael Jordan was no longer that guy. Gary Payton was washed up. Karl Malone was ring chasing. John Stockton was taking up space. Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon were gone. Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller were shells of themselves. Patrick Ewing was no where to be found, and Clyde Drexler was out. The league itself was vastly different.

When my interest in the NBA peaked, Allen Iverson was dominant. Tracy McGrady and his cousin Vince Carter were stellar. Shaq and Kobe were a hell of a tandem. Kevin Garnett was elite. Dirk and Steve Nash were coming into their own. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were making noise in the East. And Tim Duncan was just extremely boring. (I know I left off guys like David Robinson and Jason Kidd off but y’all get the point.)

Out of all of those guys though, there was no one I liked more than Kobe Bean Bryant.

Kings v Lakers

MY STORY

When it came to Kobe there wasn’t anything you could tell me.

You couldn’t diss his game, talk about his personality, or belittle him in any way without me being ready to argue.

In my family and amongst my small group of friends, everyone has had atleast that one specific guy they watched faithfully and would go to war for.

My father’s guy was Magic; my uncle’s guy was Jordan; my mom’s guy was Isiah Thomas; my great grandfather’s guy was a tie between Larry Bird and Julius Irving.

They followed their guys faithfully, like I’m doing now and tried to tell me it’s not going to be a happy ending. I didn’t really believe them until that foresight became a reality.

Personally I thought they were full of s#!% and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about; until I sat down and thought about each player.

MJ’s downfall was him coming back and playing at age 40 for the Washington Wizards. Larry Bird’s career couldn’t continue because his back was out of sorts. Isiah’s career ended after he tore his Achilles. Magic on the other hand retired due to the HIV/AIDS situation. He later came back and wasn’t the same guy.

My guy is in the same boat at this point in time.

A few years back I was in denial. I’ll own up to it. I had just witnessed the Lakers lose in five games to a hungry OKC team (2012) that featured the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. In response, I looked for excuses to help Kobe out.

The thing is, there weren’t any.

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THE OBVIOUS

In that specific series, Westbrook was tearing him apart, Harden was giving him buckets, and Durant was giving him fits with his length making it hard for him to score. As a matter of fact, James Harden was playing him tough defensively as well. The whole series in general wasn’t pretty. Kobe couldn’t get to his spots, he couldn’t contain anyone and he was a step slow.

That series against OKC ended a four series stretch of Kobe struggling. Against Dallas in 2011, he struggled against Shawn Marion and others from that championship team; losing 4-0. The series prior to that, he struggled against Chris Paul and his no help Hornets; winning 4-2, and in the series against Denver prior to the OKC matchup, Kobe struggled against the fast paced Nuggets. That series went the distance 4-3 and was more about Andrew Bynum.

That series against OKC ended his Postseason career.

At that point in time, the writing on the wall was very clear to everyone else outside of me, Kobe was in his decline.

That offseason he participated in the Olympics where he was out of place and out of sorts. It was as clear as day that he didn’t belong on the court with a few of those guys. It was so obvious to the point where Coach K was reluctant to play him in certain stretches.

Even with the putrid performances in the Olympics, I still believed. Especially when the Lakers landed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash that same offseason.

When the those trades first surfaced, I was as hype as anyone. I thought Kobe would be rejuvenated and eager to play (as he always is) and I started stating a lot of other things that you generally say when a player has lost it.

But again, I was over hyped and I continued to look past the new Kobe’s obvious deficiencies in skill.

REALITY SETS IN

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During that season I wrote an article (Are You Talking About Kobe Bryant) talking about how Kobe was better than ever and stating that he was beating Father Time. From a numbers perspective I was right, but from a physical standpoint he wasn’t getting the same looks or shots that I was accustomed to seeing.

After working hard, all season long, to get the Lakers into the playoffs; Kobe’s Achilles popped days before the postseason.

I couldn’t help but shed a tear when ESPN aired his injury statement. I knew his best chance at getting ring number 6 was gone. And I also knew he was never going to be the same again.

When Kobe said he was going to comeback better and defy the odds I regained a slimmer of hope. I thought that because he was determined and hungry along with the fact that he loves to prove people wrong, then he would come back elite.

I was wrong…..

In the 2013-2014 season, after playing in 6 games Kobe broke a bone in his knee. All I could do was throw my hands up and accept it for what it was….Father Times never loses and Kobe is no longer Kobe.

He was just K.Bryant from that point on. The guy who played in six games and averaged a measly  14pts, 6ast and 4reb… No longer special.

I, as I’m sure many Lakers fans did, sulked over that demoralizing season. The Lakers were bad. Kobe was gone. What do you do now..

The NBA as a whole became unfun for me. I truly wasn’t ready to face the truth and I also didn’t have anyone else to cheer or root for. I was just uninterested.

After the season concluded and free agency along with the draft went by, I finally got over my depression. I had heard that Kobe was looking better, more fit, slimmer, and healthier.

I sat and pondered about Kobe and his recent years some more and decided I’d give it one more go. He had just turned 36 and basically had a year off.

With 36 being a fairly decent age and him having a year off for rest and to get healthy; I felt he would regain his old form…. Dumb I know.

A month or so before the season started, ESPN produced their yearly NBA Players Rankings. At first glance I was furious at how wrong they did Kobe by placing him at #40 on the list.

Guys who hadn’t accomplished anything thus far in their careers (Love, Wall, Kyrie etc) were ahead of him and I didn’t understand the reasoning until the season actually started…

This year Kobe was officially washed up. He would chuck up shot after shot. Committ turnover after turnover. And he would also get beat off the dribble damn near every defensive stance….

I mean he still had the same “I’m gonna come at you” mindset as he always did, but his ability just wasn’t anywhere close to prime Kobe.

After a series of minor injuries and players, as well as pundits, speaking out about his current style of play; Kobe became more of a facilitator.

That role suited him more since he wasn’t capable of dominating the game from a physical stand point. By using his IQ and unique passing ability he was able to prolong his season and delay the inevitable injury that was soon to come…

On Thursday, January 22nd, Kobe’s season was over. He had torn his rotators cuff in a game against the Pelicans the day before…

Three straight seasons…. Three straight season ending injuries…

TODAY

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As much as I hate to say it…. Kobe is done…

He can no longer stay healthy. He can no longer dominate games for long stretches. He can’t keep up with anyone defensively..He’s no longer that guy.. And the old guy won’t ever be returning.

Kobe’s mileage finally caught up with him: All of the long seasons that resulted in Finals apperances.. All of the playoff runs that resulted in 3rd and 2nd round exits…The hardwork he put in trying to comeback from injury… Playing in the Olympics. Everything.

ESPN was accurate when they declared that 39 players were better than Kobe. I was just too blind to see it.

Now opening my eyes I see how Rose, Bledsoe, Wall, CP3, Westbrook, Lawson, Rondo, Curry, Kyrie, Lillard, Dragic, Lowry, Parker, Beal, Ellis, Butler, Klay, Harden, DeRozan, Wade, LeBron, Durant, George, Leonard, Melo, Dirk, Love, Randolph, Griffin, Bosh, Aldridge, Davis, P.Gasol, M.Gasol, Dwight, Cousins, Noah and a few more are all better players at this point…

Now that the word is in and we know Kobe is out for nine months, we have to ask ourselves: Was that his final game?

He’s under contract for one last year after this season.. The Lakers are tanking and no one seems interested in joining a rebuilding project. I mean why should he return? He’s the 3rd leading scorer in NBA history. A 5x-NBA Champ, an MVP and is universally (peers wise) regarded as the ”Best Player” of his generation and has been deemed as the second best shooting guard to ever play the game… There is nothing left for him to prove at this point that will have any significance on where he places in NBA history.

REFLECTING BACK 

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Kobe’s demeanor and personality wasn’t liked by many.

People didn’t like the arrogance and cockiness that was coming from a sidekick (to Shaq) who wanted to be like Jordan. They would often ridicule his ambitions and aspirations as he was nothing more than a lesser version of the original. And they would also belittle his game by saying he was a ball hog and that he couldn’t pass.

It was just too soon for someone to come in and be the heir to ”His Airness”.

People often cite Kobe for piggy backing onto the likes of Shaq. They’d state that Kobe wasn’t doing anything and Shaq would do all of the work; when in reality Kobe would be the one to close games and facilitating making sure everyone was contributing. Those minor details will forever be overlooked because of how Shaq dominated the Finals’ boxscores.

By tying in the attitude factors, Kobe’s quote on quote ”Piggy Backing” on Shaq, the fallout between him and Shaq, and Phil Jackson’s quote on stating how he was ”uncoachable”, you can see why people hated Kobe so much. Throw in the rape charges and loss of endorsements and you’ll begin to see why Kobe’s fan base is a bit lackluster.

Unlike Bird, Magic, LeBron, Durant, Jordan and Doc.J, Kobe’s fan base is much smaller. Allen Iverson’s fan base may be greater because of his impact on to the whole NBA landscape.

Kobe is the NBA’s version of Tom Brady, both great players, but disliked because of their personality and accomplishments.

Kobe-Bryant-Winning-Championship-For-Downloads

ACCOLADES 

Even though his career may not fully be over, (it needs to be) he accomplished everything he should have. (Outside of two more MVPs and a few more scoring titles)

2x Olypic Gold medals

25x 50pt games

5x 60pt games

Slam Dunk Champion

MVP

2x Finals MVP

2x Scoring Champ

5x NBA Champion

9x First Team All Defense

3x Second Team All Defense

11x All-NBA First Team

2x All-NBA 2nd Team

2x All-NBA Third Team

17x Allstar Selections

4x NBA All-star Game MVP

All Rook 2nd Team

2nd Most Points in a game (81pts)

3rd All-Time Points Leader

2x Best NBA Player ESPY Award

Numerous Lakers Records

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CONCLUSION

Coming back shouldn’t be an option. He’s done enough to make a claim as a Top 10 player of all-time. The only thing he should do is accept the reality for what it is…..His time is done. Y’all have accepted it, I’ve accepted it and now he needs to accept it.

No one beats Father Time

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Ryan Fort

Twitter: RyanDFort, Fortonsports Inc

All Eyes On Westbrook

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Ever since the day he was drafted Russell Westbrook has always challenged Kevin Durant’s status in hierarchy. Whether it’s taking Durant’s rebound, taking Durant’s shot or calling Durant out for his play Westbrook has always challenged him. No one can guard Durant like Westbrook can. And no one can stop Westbrook like Durant can. To most people, Westbrook seems to be somewhat of a hindrance to Kevin Durant. In my eyes I view it as the opposite.

Kevin Durant is one of a kind. He’s a seven footer with a sweet jumper and a mean crossover. He’s savvy, quick, long and hard-working. He can score from 30 feet out, in the post, off the dribble and off of screens. Defensively he can affect people because of his length and he can rebound at a fairly decent level. In crunch time there aren’t too many if any, guys you’d rather want taking the shot. He’s an incredible gifted young player who’s ceiling is high. I get it. But the Thunder don’t go as he goes. He may be the captain, but he’s damn sure not the driver.

For as long as I can remember Durant’s impact has always been third.

Back when Harden was on the roster his impact on the game greater than that of KD’s. He would come in off of the bench and provide a lift. Harden would hit momentous shots, lockup well make things tough on opposing guards who could score, (see Kobe in 2012) as well as distribute the ball. He was arguably the best playmaker on the team dare I say the most important, because when he didn’t show up (Finals against the Heat) they struggled. And when he did ( Spurs series) they dominated.

Today Ibaka has a more prominent effect on the game than Durant does. Without Ibaka OKC struggles when it comes to defending the paint and rebounding. With Ibaka everyone is better and he shuts down who ever is presumed to be a threat on the block. This past year in the Playoffs OKC struggled when Ibaka was out. His absence left a void offensively and defensively. They struggled to find the appropriate space offensively and defensively they couldn’t stop anyone.

But enough of Ibaka and Harden this is about Westbrook.

With Harden on the squad Westbrook’s impact was still greater than Durant’s. He brought the edge and physicality the team needed. As well as the drive and hunger.

Westbrook would and still will provide a spark, a boost if you will that has a greater impact than Durant. For example when Durant scores 30 it’s more of a suprise because it goes unnoticed or should I say wasn’t necessarily felt. Whenever Westbrook scores alot you tend to think it was more because he does it in a more demoralizing way. Owning who ever tries to guard him.

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Durant’s numbers may appear large on the stat sheet but within the game they aren’t as impactful as many would believe. I view him as a great quiet scorer. Westbrook’s scoring prowess/wrath in retrospect is more devastating than that of Durant’s. Westbrook’s presence is felt. Durant’s can go unnoticed.

Unless Durant is scorching hot and lighting it up I don’t view him as the best player on the team. I find myself looking and watching for Westbrook more than anyone else. He never takes a play off while you’ll often see Durant flail his arms and make faces whenever things don’t go his way. He’ll also stop trying all together when he can’t get open.

On the defensive side of the ball Westbrook makes it hard on other guards. He’s a big physical guard that has alot of athleticism with arms that are pretty lengthy to go along with the strength he has. He can lockup guys when need be and he excels in playing the passing lanes.

Westbrook is easily OKC’s best two way player.

But now he has clearly become their most important player.

With Kevin Durant sidelined with a foot injury until December (I say longer because those injuries always come with setbacks…Yao..Brook Lopez..etc) he now has a chance to show that he can lead a team on his own. He won’t have to be in Durant’s shadow early. And if he performs like I expect him to he won’t have to ever again.
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We’ve seen Westbrook take over games with his defense. We’ve seen him hit game clinching buckets. We’ve seen his play making ability. We’ve seen his edge, heart, desire, drive and hunger. We know he’s a stud. But now it’s time for him to elevate his game even higher.

I see a Kobe Bryant like ceiling for Westbrook. If he was the main guy he would shine and people would appreciate his greatness alot more.

He’s a Top 5 guy in this league while playing alongside Durant. And after this season I suspect him to be top two or three.

Kevin Durant’s injury hurts no doubt, but it’ll prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Westbrook’s chance to lead has finally come and he must now seize the moment. It’s his time now and all eyes are on him.

Westbrook for MVP is highly likely.
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NBA Season Preview (2013-14)

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To use a quote from LeBron, ”Its about damn time!”

After four long months the NBA is finally back, and to add on to that this might be the most anticipated and could quite possibly be the most competitve season in recent memory! During the offseason you had big named coaches swithcing places, big time players changing teams and players dissing each other to help create rivalries. Blockbuster trades happened as well like the KG, Paul Pierce trade, the Igudola trade and the Brandon Jennings trade. The offseason had everyone impatient and weary as they waited for the season to come around. And from the way things look now, this season should be ten times better than last season.

Before We Start
If you haven’t been under a rock this whole time you should know that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dwight Howard, Andre Igudola and Andrew Bynum have all changed teams. Garnett and Pierce went to Brooklyn, Howard went to Houston, Bynum went to Cleveland and Iggy went to Oakland. You should also know by now that Doc Rivers left Boston and went to Los Angeles to coach the Clippers. (Smart move by him I know.) The other things that you should know or have an idea about is how Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Danillo Gallinari are all injured, and how Derrick Rose is returning from an ACL injury. And I almost forgot, the Heat signed Michael Beasley and Greg Oden! Now that I’ve filled you in on some of the main things we should be good to go.

Eastern Conference
This year the East should be very competive! There should be battles between seeds 1-4, and then another battle between seeds 6-8. (The 5th seed should be locked up by the Knicks in case you were wondering.) Each team in this conference got better, unless you’re the Celtics or 76ers. Every other team has a legitimate Playoff shot.

The Philadephia 76ers are going to be god awful. They’ll be lucky to win five games. With Nerlens Noel shut down for the season, who might’ve been their best player, (reminds me of Bynum last year) the 76ers will have to rely on Evan Turner; a former number two draft pick who also happens to be a guy who has never averaged over fifteen points a game. Hopefully they’ll be able to get the number one pick in the draft.

The Milwaukee Bucks should be better this season. Yes, I know they lost their two best players in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but if you look you’ll see that they added better pieces. To replace Jennings and Ellis they signed OJ Mayo and traded for Brandon Knight. Those moves made them younger. The Bucks also added solid veterans in Caron Butler, Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino and Gary Neal to help out their bench and small-forward woes. And if Larry Sanders contiues to improve watch out!

The Boston Celtics are going to be without Rajon Rondo for a while. Maybe Rondo should sit this season out while he recovers from his ACL injury like Rose did. That’ll give Boston a chance to draft one of those big time players in the upcoming draft. But um, as far as the team goes, nothing seems to gel. Don’t be surprised if Rondo wants out!

The Orlando Magic aren’t going to be that good either. There should be alot of trade speculation in regards to where Aaron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson end up. Other than that this team will end up having another top five pick this season. Oh and Oladipo should win ROY.

The Toronto Raptors can actually be a legit team. The only problem with them is that they’ll have to rely on the likes of Rudy Gay and Demar DeRozan. Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, Landry Fields and Augustine are good enough to help them make a run at the 8th seed right? Or will the Raptors look to trade Gay? As of now he’s not a framchise guy…. Decisions, decisions.

The Washington Wizards just made a big move by trading for Marcin Gortat. The Wizards will now have inside scoring and will be able to move Nene back to his natural postion. Off the bench they’ll have Maynor, Webster, Harrington and Ariza. The starting lineup should be Wall-Beal-Porter-Nene-Gortat. Their season will be dependent on the play of Wall….That’s a tall order.

The Atlanta Hawks are going to be solid. Yes, losing Josh Smith hurt, but they added some quality depth in Elton Brand and Paul Millsap. Will they be contenders, hell no. But they’ll continue to be competitve. Al Horford is no slouch! Hopefully, they’ll be able to make some noise at the trade deadline.

The Detroit Pistons are back! With a lineup of Jennings-Stuckey-Smith-Monroe-Drummond, the Pistons should cause alot of problems against teams who like to play small ball. Oh and they have a leader and solid role player in Chauncey Billups. If things get rough he should be able to help guide them. They’ll be top ten defensively. Playoff bound for sure.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to make way for a run at LeBron. They added depth in Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. Drafting Bennett will help. A.Varejao being healthy will end up being a plus as well. The two major problems the Cavs have are the durability of their stars. If Kyrie can stay healthy they’ll be a Playoff team without question. But if ANDREW BYNUM is healthy and continues his play from two years ago the Cavs may become Dark Horse Contenders…….But then again it’s Kyrie and Bynum we’re talking about. Neither player can stay healthy.

The Bobcats could be a Playoff team this year as well. Kemba should improve, MKG should get better and they also signed Al Jefferson. And if Jordan knew what he was doing on draft night, (history says otherwise,) the Bobcats just might have the steal of the draft in Cody Zeller! A roster that consists of Walker-Henderson-Sessions-Gordon-MKG-Biyombo-Zeller-Haywood-Jefferson is good enough to crack the East’s top 8, right?

The New York Knicks pretty much stayed pat. Yeah they signed Beno Udrih, Artest and traded for Andrea Bargnani but what does that do,seriously? None of them are prime time players or great role players. One player sat on Toronto’s bench and another sat on Orlando’s. The third player should’ve been benched three years ago. Either way it goes the Knicks won’t be too special this season. Thats why Melo is going to leave. Sorry Knick fans.

The Brooklyn Nets are loaded! With the additions of Garnett, Terry, Pierce and Kirilenko the Nets have scoring, depth and defense. Blatche, and Evans will be great hustle guys off the bench with Terry carrying the load and AK-47 playing defense. But one must ask, is Jason Kidd ready to coach a team this loaded? Is he ready to coach period?

The Pacers are coming! During the offseason the Pacers brought in Luis Scola, CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and have Danny Granger back. They have more depth, trade bait, another scorer and more shooters. Roy Hibbert got better and Paul George is now a top three shooting guard or small forward. The rest of the league should watch out.

The Chicago Bulls are going to be spectacular this year. Rose is finally back and is already talking about how much better he has gotten. With Rose healthy, Jimmy Butler improving and the signing of shooter Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls can beat anyone. They’ll have more scoring and the defense should still be stellar. They still aren’t going to beat Miami though.

The Miami Heat are still locked and loaded! ( This will describe how i feel https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/heat-still-nba-kings/) LeBron wants ring number three. Wade wants to show everyone he’s still a top ten player and Bosh wants to be remembered as well. The Heat should be able to coast through the season once again. And if Wade is healthy, Beasley’s head is on straight and Oden can play the Miami Heat might break the Bulls record of 72-10. The only thing that’ll keep them from breaking the record is boredom. I mean they do get bored alot, unfortunately.

East AllStars

Starters
PG- Rose
SG- Wade
SF- Melo
PF- LeBron
C- Lopez

Bench
Guards- Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Deron Williams
Forwards- Paul George, Josh Smith, Horford
Center- Hibbert or Bynum (healthy)

Western Conference
Usually the West has a clear cut favorite. This year no one knows what to expect from the West. There isn’t a team that stands out from the rest this season. Just like the East, the West should be very competitive, from top to bottom. Each team is one injury away from being doomed….The Suns are the only team who won’t have a Playoff shot.

The Phoenix Suns won’t be that good this season. They’ll be the Western Conference version of the 76ers. Just like Philly, Phoenix is tanking in order to secure a top pick. They’ll also be using this season to evaluate Eric Bledsoe, to see if he’s that guy.

The Sacramento Kings are down, and I don’t see them getting up. Cousins got paid, but is he a franchise guy? I’m sorry but the Kings are going to have hell if John Salmons is their best scorer.

The Utah Jazz are rebuilding, I think. By extending the contracts of Favors and later on Hayward the Jazz will have players to build around. Who knows maybe they’ll swing some type of unexpected deal. Sixth worse team in the league, worst case. At best this team can make a run at the Playoffs, for a couple weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are pretty much cooked. Kobe’s going to be out for a while and Nash is washed up. Gasol should play well. Hell, he might even get traded. On the bright side, they’ll have money to spend during the offseason. (MELOOOOOOOOOOO) If Kobe comes fast enough though they may be able to make something out of nothing. Maybe, just maybe the 8th seed isn’t too farfetched.

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t going to do anything. Kevin Love will continue to pad his stats while his team will fail to make the Playoffs yet again. I’ve never seen a “SUPERSTAR” win less than thirty games. OVERRATED, I THINK SO!!!! He’s not the best POWERFORWARD in the league, and he’s not a top tier player..But seriously, will Minny ever stay healthy? Chase Budinger is already out… Hmm haven’t we seen this before?

The Portland Trail Blazers are going to be exciting. They added shooters in Mo Williams and D.Wright, a scrapper in Lopez and Lilard will be better this year. Making the Playoffs can happen, but will it. Hopefully L.A. gets traded if things go south before February. (Thunder, Lakers, Bulls, Cavs maybe?) If he doesn’t get traded it’ll be another wasted year for him….. Could Portland swing a deal to land Rudy Gay?

The New Orleans Pelicans are going to be scary. If Eric Gordon can stay healthy watch out. They added a young Allstar point guard in Jrue Holiday and added a good scorer in Tyreke Evans. If they add one more guy they might be able to make a huge leap! (L.A. or Pau Gasol.) Are they Playoff bound? Yes! Without question. Maybe they’ll become contenders in a couple years. This team should be here for a while!

The Denver Nuggets are going to be fun to watch despite not having George Karl around. Losing George Karl and Iggy will hurt them alot, not having Gallinari is going to kill them as well. I’m sorry, but no Playoffs for them unless one of the top teams suffer a major injury.

The Memphis Grizzlies are still going to be a threat. Losing Hollins is going to hurt, but it’s not like he made their offense good. With the addition of Mike Miller, the Grizzlies will have the one thing they lacked a, consistent shooter. Miller will spread the floor for Z-Bo and Gasol which will make it easier on them….

The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t scare anyone as much. Was it because Durant got exposed? Is it because Westbrook is hurt? Some feel like Westbrook is their best player and without him they aren’t good… Others think this team has ran it’s course and it’s time for a break up…. I guess i’m the only one who believes Durant is coming! The bench should be solid and Durant should grow even more this season, Westbrook as well. Who can beat a team with two top five players?

The Houston Rockets need one year together. The Harden, Dwight duo could very well be the second coming of Kobe and Shaq. Both players are going to have a lot to prove this year. D12 has to prove he’s still the best center and Harden has to show us why he’s better than Kobe and Wade. It won’t be easy this year for Houston.

The San Antonio Spurs just won’t fall off. Ducan and Parker continue to keep the Spurs afloat despite their ages. The Spurs will without question be contenders. Evryone usually puts the onus on Parker, Duncan or Manu but not me. This season the Spurs’ success will be predicated on the play of Kawhi Leonard. They’ll go as he goes. Top ten small forward? I believe so.

The Dallas Mavericks are my Dark Horse contenders. Dirk will be healthy this season and will have way more help. ( Keep in mind his team was on pace to win 50 games last season.) The additions of Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Dejuan Blair, Devin Harris and Samuel Dalembert makes this team deep. They have guards, scorers, shooters, rebounders, speed, athleticism etc. They’re built like the championship team, except better.

The Los Angeles Clippers are serious now. They brought in Doc. Rivers who has already left his mark on this franchise. He’s changing their mentality and creating a culture. CP3 and Griffin also have more help with the additions of Jamison, Collison, Reddick and Dudley. Deepest team in the West? I think so.

The Golden State Warriors suprised everyone last season. Curry became a star, Lee was dominant and Barnes became a legit starter. This season the Warriors should be alot better after adding Igudola, O’neal and Speights. Bogut should be healthier this season as well as Curry. Thompson is going to improve the bench and Harrison Barnes is going to continue to grow. Let’s see how Mark Jackson’s team does in year three.

West AllStars

Starters
PG- CP3
SG- Kobe
SF- Durant
PF- Griffin
C- Howard

Bench
Guards- James Harden, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
Forwards- Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki
Center- Marc Gasol

Playoff Prediction
EAST WEST
1.Bulls 1.Clippers
2.Heat 2.Warriors
3.Pacers 3.Rockets
4.Nets 4.Thunder
5.Knicks 5.Mavericks
6.Cavaliers 6.Grizzlies
7.Pistons 7.Spurs
8.Wizards 8.Pelicans

Top Players Going Into Season

1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Chris Paul
4. Carmelo Anthony
5. Stephen Curry
6. James Harden
7. Derrick Rose
8. Paul George
9. Tony Parker
10. Dwight Howard

(No injured players)

Awards

Rookie Of The Year – Victor Oladipo or Kelly Olynk

Coach Of The Year – Kevin McHale

Most Improved Player – Eric Bledsoe

MVP Race:

1.Rose (Winner)
2.LeBron
3.Durant
4.Paul
5.Harden

6th Man Of The Year – Klay Thompson, Lance Stephenson or Tyreke Evans

Defensive Player Of The Year – Dwight Howard or Roy Hibbert

Scoring Champion- Kevin Durant

All NBA Team (1)
PG- Rose
SG- Harden
SF- Durant
PF- LeBron
C- Dwight

All NBA Team (2)
PG- CP3
SG- Kobe
SF- Melo
PF- Love
C- Gasol

All NBA Team (3)
PG- Westbrook
SG- Curry
SF- George
PF- Griffin
C- Bynum (Healthy)/Duncan/Lopez

All Defensive 1st Team
PG- Avery Bradley
SG- Tony Allen
SF- LeBron James
PF- Serge Ibaka
C- Dwight Howard

All Defensive 2nd Team
PG- Chris Paul
SG- Paul George
SF- Luol Deng
PF- Tim Duncan
C- Marc Gasol

Finals Pick
Heat win 4-2 over Clippers

The Season Is Here
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The Evolution Of A Superstar

Some of us saw this coming, while others didn’t; some knew he would be a star, while others didn’t; some claimed he was an injury proned player wouldn’t be anything more than an above average Point Guard, while others still believed.

Over the course of this season Stephen Curry has proven time in and time out that he’s the real deal. He led the Warriors to a 47-35 record while averaging 23ppg and 7ast. He broke Ray Allen’s single season record in 3pt field goals made and is currently leading his Warriors team to a first round upset over the Denver Nuggets.

In the Playoffs Elite players step their game up; and thats exactly what Stephen Curry did. He went from averaging 23ppg and 7ast in the season to averaging 27ppg and 10ast. He averages more assists than any other player in the Playoffs and has the fourth highest Points Per Game average behind Anthony, Durant and Harden.

With the lights shining bright, and people watch closely Stephen Curry is delivering; like a Superstar
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Defying Father Time

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For the last couple of years Kobe and his play has put fans and analysts in a bad mind frame. Before this season started there was talk of Kobe Bryant showing his age and slowly becoming a second tier player.
         The talk first started two seasons ago after Kobe and his Lakers got swept by the Dallas Mavericks. In that series against Dallas, Kobe wasn’t able to carry his team to victories. In the first two games of that series Kobe got out played by Dirk in crunch time. Kobe was also getting beat by J.J Barea and Jason Terry whenever he guarded them. And last but not least, Kobe couldn’t get the looks he wanted because of the tough defense being played by Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Deshawn Stevenson. After the series concluded we found out Kobe was playing on one knee and messed up his ankle. So not only was he showing his age, his body was deteriorating.
        During that offseason Kobe went to Germany and had knee surgery on his ailing knee. After the surgery there was talk of Kobe showing some spark and playing younger. After hearing that fans of Kobe ,and others, became excited about the upcoming season. But during the pre-season Kobe tore a ligament in his wrist that happened to be on his shooting hand. Despite the injury Kobe played and turned some heads. During that season Kobe averaged: 28pts 5reb 5ast 30% 3pt 43% FGP 84% FT in 39mpg. Compared to the 25pts 5reb 5ast 32% 3PT 45% FGP 83% FT in 34mpg Yes his scoring went up but his efficiency went down; which meant he wasn’t getting easy looks. So instead of raving about the scoring he was doing people knocked him for being slower and inefficient.
         During the Playoffs last season Kobe’s age got to him. In the series against OKC Kobe got out played by Durant, James Harden and Westbrook. During the 4th Quarters Kobe couldn’t close like he used to; Kobe couldn’t defend; Kobe couldn’t get the looks he wanted; Kobe couldn’t make the plays that needed to be made. As a result Kobe and the Lakers went home in five games. After that series there were talks of Kobe running out of gas. Kobe showing his age. Kobe’s body is done. Kobe would be lucky to average 20+ points next season. And other ignorant claims. During the Olympics Kobe looked out of place at times when playing with Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron, Melo, Igudola and others. He couldn’t run the floor like they were doing. He couldn’t score like they could. He couldn’t defend like them. And after hearing and witnessing those type of things there was only one thing that could be said: Father Time Has Finally Caught Up With Him. People stuck with that until the start of the season.
       Once the season started we saw a younger, quicker, stronger, faster, efficient Kobe Bryant. Despite him being hampered by injuries this season ( Hip, Foot, Ankle, Ankle, Hand, Knee, Flu etc,) he averages 27ppg 6reb 6ast 33% 3pt 46% FGP 83% FT in 38mpg. Compared to the past two seasons all of his numbers are up and he’s playing better defensively. 
         After 16 (17 if you count now,) seasons in the NBA players usually become shells of themselves. Hell after 13+ season players’ productions drop off because of their ages and the wear and tear their bodies have consumed thru the duration of their career. But not Kobe Bean Bryant.
At age 34 with 16 1/2 seasons under his belt, numerous injuries and plenty of excuses to live off on, Kobe continues to defy the odds and fight Father Time. Instead of getting worse he’s getting better. Instead of aging he’s getting younger. Instead of giving up he keeps fighting. In cases of him losing to Father Time he keeps rewriting.

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Don’t forget about Harden!!!!

All season long people have talked about who’s winning MVP. LeBron, Durant, CP3, Parker, Melo and Kobe are the players that are frequently mentioned. Here and there people will mention the likes of Paul George and Zach Randolph, but not once have they mentioned James Harden. The ex-Thunder has his team humming without any other allstars alongside him.

He doesn’t have Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Mario Chalmbers on his team; he doesn’t have Westbrook, Ibaka and Martin on his team; he doesn’t have Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger and David West on his team; he doesn’t have Dwight Howard, Antwan Jamison, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol as teammates; he doesn’t have Mike Conley or Marc Gasol supporting him; he doesn’t have Amare’ Stoudamire, Chandler, and J.R Smith on his team; he doesn’t even have a Ginobli or a Duncan on his team. All he has is Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik, who are average role players on contending teams at best.

If you were to pair James Harden with a Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan tandem he’d have them in contention. For James Harden to have a team full of role players in the ultra competitive Western Conference, Playoff Hunt, consideration for MVP should be awarded and not over looked. I’m not saying he should win, but at least show him some love.

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