Do the Rockets ever stop complaining?
The same franchise that used faulty math as the basis of a memo to the league in which it argued that officiating cost Houston the 2018 championship was back at it again Friday night, and some of the same principal offenders were at the center of the controversy.
No, not Rockets GM Daryl Morey. He has been in enough hot water as it is.
Instead, I'm referring to James Harden, who continues to only have himself to blame for the fact that his playing style isn't as enjoyed by the masses as some of his contemporaries.
The flopping, kicking, flailing and bending of the rules is annoying enough, but made worse by the fact that he gets away with it more often than not. This season, Harden is averaging 38.3 points per game, 8.0 more than anyone else in the league. He is also averaging 14.4 free-throw attempts per contest; there's only one other NBA player in double-digits, and only eight averaging at least half as many attempts. Put simply, he might not get all of the calls that he deserves -- no one does -- but he gets a friendlier whistle than almost anyone else.
And to Harden's credit, it wasn't the officiating that was at the center of his voiced complaint Friday night after the Rockets' last-minute loss to the Clippers -- although Houston didn't waste an opportunity to point out an apparent infraction by Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers. No, it wasn't the officiating that Harden thought was unfair; rather, it was the ... defense?
Harden dished out 12 assists in the loss to go along with his game-high 37 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Consequently, the Clippers threw numerous double-teams at him to try to limit his effectiveness and get the ball out of his hands -- you know, as defenses do. And even then, there were times when he caught fire and Los Angeles had no answer for him, no matter how many bodies were thrown at him. But apparently, that didn't sit well with Harden.
Rockets’ James Harden on the attention he’s seeing: “The whole season they’re running doubles teams at me. I’ve never seen that in an NBA game where you’ve got really good defenders & someone else running at the top of the key. Y’all let me know the last time you’ve seen that.” pic.twitter.com/eVxRUgds76— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 23, 2019
"The whole season they’re running doubles teams at me," Harden told media in the locker room. "I’ve never seen that in an NBA game where you’ve got really good defenders and someone else running at the top of the key. Y’all let me know the last time you’ve seen that."
All right, who wants to tell him?
By the looks of the responses to that tweet, it appears many have already done so. The last time we've seen that? Really?
The Warriors have knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including twice in the conference finals. It would be understandable if it was too painful for Harden to then watch the NBA Finals, but he can't act like they didn't happen.
Need I remind you that Toronto utilized a 'Box-and-one' defense against Golden State in the Finals, a kind of defense that is sparingly used even at the collegiate level. The Raptors assigned one player to chase Steph Curry at all times while the rest of the team played a zone defense. He was never left alone, and it proved to be a very effective defensive strategy.
Look at how Steph is being guarded lol. pic.twitter.com/7uCZVkve4F— Alex 👋. (@Dubs408) June 4, 2019
And it's not like that's the only instance. Far from it. Curry, like most NBA superstars, frequently has been doubled, just as Harden is now. The difference is, Curry, nor any of the NBA greats, ever complained about it, and why would they? After all, it's a sign of respect.
Harden has been to the Finals once with the Thunder, and who knows, he and the Rockets might get back there with the Warriors at least temporarily out of the way.
But as long as he and Houston continue to act like they're getting the short end of the stick, they're not going to get much sympathy.
Nor should they.