Athletes are People Too

Unlike many sports fans seem to believe, the team that trots out every game representing the organization you cheer for is not comprised of factory-designed basketball robots. These are human beings who get paid to perform a task, albeit a nationally televised one. This fact, however, probably won't stop fans from relentlessly berating the likes of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, or Dwight Howard, to name a few, and those are just on OUR team. The Rockets, like any other team, are a combination of many different types of people, and each of them has both strengths and weaknesses.

JEREMY LIN, more than any other player in the NBA, seems to be a man whose performance is highly dependent on his self-image. When he's feeling it, THAT'S when he starts pouring it in. If he starts to feel like he's worthless, that's when he makes the knuckleheaded mistakes that lead to his role as a scapegoat. I can only guess, because I don't know the man personally, but I would say that he probably spent his entire basketball life underappreciated, with coaches and fans alike unable to see him as anything other than an Asian kid playing a sport he "isn't supposed to be playing." On the court, the tone of your skin doesn't affect your play, but your state of mind can. If Lin is feeling worthless, like after turning the ball over or missing a layup he probably shouldn't have taken, it isn't going to be easy for him to flip a switch and get over it. How people feel about him affects how he feels about himself, how he feels about himself affects how he plays, and how he plays affects how people feel about him.

JAMES HARDEN has dealt with being considered the embodiment of the modern NBA: self-oriented, apathetic on defense, and throwing himself into defenders praying for foul calls. This may be true to some degree, but I'd hardly say that Harden's performance on the basketball court is the end-all for personality evaluation. The frustrations that many of us Rockets fans have been dealing with recently with regards to Harden, Harden is likely dealing with himself. Harden tries to put up walls, hides his emotions behind his massive beard, and does his best to look the leader fans expect him to be. He was certainly trying to take on a leadership role at the end of game 6 when he motioned Beverley off of Lillard in favor of Parsons. That move can be criticized for a multitude of reasons ("Harden's not a good defender, why is he making defensive calls?" among them), but possibly Harden reasoned that (A) Beverley was fighting through an illness, and may not have been able to defend Lillard very effectively on the shot, (B) Parsons is a longer defender, and could therefore contest the shot more effectively than could Beverley, and (C) Parsons had just hit the go-ahead basket, and Harden wanted to give him the chance to be the hero on defense as well. Whatever the reason, Harden at least was making an effort to lead the team. It's likely that Harden is going through a few growing pains after being thrust overnight from "Sixth Man" to "Face of a Franchise", and may take some time to adjust.

DWIGHT HOWARD is one of the most loveable guys in the NBA, and if you still don't like him after an entire season of watching him play for your team, shame on you. Howard has been described as "immature", "indecisive", and "disloyal". What is perceived as immaturity could also be considered playfulness. His "indecisiveness" was actually him trying to please everyone and also trying to please himself, which he found out quickly don't always coincide. His "disloyalty" was truly just him leaving a situation that was not good for him. Howard, more than anything, wants to be happy, and he wants those he cares about to be happy as well. At this point in his life, "those he cares about" is most accurately defined as his teammates. The best way to make them happy, he believes, is to win a championship. Howard was surely very disappointed last Friday, not just because he lost, but because his team -- his family -- lost. Watching their disappointment and dejection was as painful for him as losing the game was, if not more so.

CHANDLER PARSONS can certainly seem like a douche, and maybe that's just because he feels that society expects him to act that way. He's a good, caring person, though. If he wasn't, then he probably wouldn't have shaved his head in support of a young cancer patient he met.

PATRICK BEVERLEY has had to work for every opportunity he's gotten in his life. From high school in Chicago, to Arkansas, to Ukraine, to Greece, to Russia, to the Rockets now, every basketball team he's ever been on, he's been on because he put more of his heart and soul into the game of basketball than any one of his peers. So, as much pain as it caused him to do so, Beverley got out on the court with a torn meniscus and a high fever and gave his best, because he wanted to do everything he could to help his team win.

OMER ASIK was probably not well-conditioned, seeing as he was out most of the season with...whatever. If it was, as some have called it, a "bruised ego" that caused Asik to miss two months, it certainly would be understandable. When Asik signed with the Rockets, he was likely thinking along the lines of, "I've come off the bench for my entire NBA career behind Joakim Noah. Now's my chance to prove my worth as a starter." And he did just that...for one year....before the Rockets signed the league's consensus best center. Asik understandably wouldn't want to play backup again after showing that he was a quality starter, so he decided he didn't want to play at all. After a while, though, he realized that Dwight was a great person who wanted to see Asik succeed.

Now, I'm not a clinically trained psychologist, and I'm not any closer to the Rockets locker room than any other fan, so I suggest you take this article with a grain of salt. I only intend to open the eyes of the fans to the humanness of the men we cheer for 82 times a year and however many playoff games they play. I just want to make you think a little harder before you bash a player, particularly one of your own.

No cursing in title. No pirated material, such as links to online game streams. Do not cut/paste entire sections of content from other websites. Thanks.

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