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Culture / Sporting Life

LeBron Snub and a Completely Tasteless Joke Mar James Harden’s MVP Moment

And Trevor Ariza’s Bolt to the Desert Makes It Look Even Worse

BY // 07.02.18

James Harden should be basking in his MVP moment, taking well deserved victory laps. Instead, he’s getting mocked on national TV, sitting by as LeBron James reshapes the league around him, watching one of his sidekicks choose big money in the desert over a championship chase with him.

Has anyone ever had a worse first week as NBA MVP?

It starts on awards night itself when Anthony Anderson — the league chosen celebrity emcee for its ultra-hyped NBA Awards Night no less — mocks Harden’s defense in the very moment he wins MVP. It’s a tasteless joke — and one that’s outdated by at least a season.

Golden State found its historic offense almost completely stifled by the Houston Rockets’ defense in a series the Warriors would have lost without the Chris Paul injury. That never happens if Harden is still a completely indifferent defensive player.

There’s no doubt that James Harden creates a lot of his own problems. His insistence on not preparing an acceptance speech for his MVP moment is baffling. There is not a more awkward superstar in all of sports (Harden responding to Anderson’s first defense crack with weird laughter is not exactly the stuff of Michael Jordan).

Emphatically declaring that the Rockets do not need LeBron the same night is more understandable (the King was never coming to Houston no matter what the Chronicle cheerleaders tried to sell you on) as a defense mechanism.

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But when Harden talks of keeping the team together and Trevor Ariza bolts to a bad Phoenix Suns team the first chance he gets, it rings awfully hollow mere days later.

It suddenly looks like there are still a lot of players who’d rather not play with James Harden.

Perception stings. Yes, Chris Paul — who was everything Houston could have hoped for and more last season — resigned. But the 33-year-old Paul was not getting a four-year, $160 million deal from any other relevant team.

LeBron’s changed everything in the West — again. If he gets DeMarcus Cousins to join him and the now completely underrated Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles, the Lakers are suddenly very much in play to be the second best team in the West by the end of next season. The Rockets might not even be the biggest threat to the Warriors’ threepeat, let alone dark horse title favorites anymore.

Ariza did not exactly come through with flying colors in Game 7 against Golden State. But who is Daryl Morey replacing him with? The next Ryan Anderson disaster? Does anyone really think Wilson Chandler is the answer?

Second-year billionaire owner Tilman Fertitta, coach Mike D’Antoni and Harden all should be asking some hard questions right now.

The NBA shifts so quickly these days. It’s rapidly changing directly underneath Harden and the Rockets’ feet — and Houston’s championship visions are in danger of plunging right into the cracks. Locking up Clint Capela (who has also already met with the Lakers) and extending Eric Gordon will not be enough.

D’Antoni gives the Rockets a huge coaching edge, but in many ways this will be back on James Harden.

James Harden’s Dissed Into Summer

It’s up to Harden to use all the slights — Anderson’s classless jokes, LeBron’s no consideration snub, Ariza’s money over mates move — as fuel to drive himself to get even better. Maybe, it’s a good thing that no one seems willing to let Harden relish his MVP trophy.

If Harden enjoys a fat and happy summer, the Rockets have no chance. Their once realistic champagne dreams will be toast before October’s first tip.

No one let Harden have his moment. When the best thing that comes of your MVP is an Adidas commercial, you know something’s gone wrong. Harden needs to take that out on the rest of the league.

Otherwise, Anthony Anderson won’t be the only one laughing at him. Instead, Harden will be as big of a joke as all those supposed LeBron-James-is-in-Houston-looking-at-schools “sightings.”

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