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James Harden is finally the consensus MVP favorite

Just about.

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James Harden's competition is almost cooked.
James Harden's competition is almost cooked.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

James Harden has been sniffing the top of MVP leaderboards all season long. There are places he's been No. 1 here and there, places he's been behind Stephen Curry, Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis at varying times, and other places where they simply write that they don't enjoy watching his game.

Eat crow, you filthy animals.

The Rockets had a huge lead on the Hawks last night, but crumbled without him in the fourth quarter. With him and no Dwight Howard, the Rockets have a better record than when Dwight's in the lineup. He's the league leader in scoring, win shares and free throws. He's up there for assists and steals, too.

The Rockets have the fourth-best record in the league, and have been without their All-Star center and stud power forward for most of that. People chuckle when they say the Rockets aren't good enough, but what else do they have to do? The Rockets are 8-0 this season when Terrence Jones and James Harden both start.

8-0. It's not a huge sample size, but it would be silly to simply dismiss that record. Jones has been excellent this year, but the Rockets hardly missed him.

Now, finally, the ground has shifted. Look around the major national publications. The ones who are tasked with following the league as a whole rather than one team here and glimpses of others. This is the first time it's truly felt like Houston will its first MVP award since 1994.

James Harden's durability should make him the MVP favorite |

A key point we haven't heard yet in this discussion: Harden doesn't miss games unless he's being forced to for bullshit reasons. He's had several injury scares this year, and he's played through them all. Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have all missed stretches this year.

How James Harden clawed to front of NBA MVP race | USA Today Sports

James Harden has taken the reins of the best MVP race in recent years through force of will, narrative and efficient production. My fellow Terp Adi Joseph on how Harden is the new MVP in the eyes of USA Today's staff.

Is the NBA MVP Award James Harden's to Lose? | Bleacher Report

Adam Wexler talks to B/R and says, basically, that Harden is the front-runner for the award, but he wouldn't say it's "his to lose." Worth a watch.

James Harden vs. Tracy McGrady | Red94

Tracy McGrady's first year on the Rockets was his best, at age 25. He was amazing. James Harden has been demonstrably better. Pretty crazy.

Steve Francis gets chain violently snatched at Hosuton rap show |

Here's a video of the Franchise getting accosted on stage. He gets dragged to the floor by his chain, then stomped on by the assailant, then, per TMZ, gets the chain stolen anyway. Pretty scary incident and glad Stevie seems to be largely OK.

The Wizards made the right decision in letting Trevor Ariza walk in free agency | Bullets Forever

Ariza is shooting more than seven [three-pointers] a game this season for Houston, while shooting just around five per game in two seasons for Washington, which is entirely emblematic of the philosophical difference between the two teams. He's a product of his environment for better or worse, which is not what the Wizards need right now.

Michele Roberts explains her controversial comments about the media |

Not Rockets related, but fascinating nonetheless.

Daryl Morey's Rocket Science | ESPN Video

Daryl Morey sits down with Tom Haberstroh for a mildly interesting conversation.

Are Houston Rockets Wasting Rookie Kostas Papanikolaou? | Bleacher Report

Kelly Scaletta's analysis has gotten better as the year has gone on. This is a great, deep dive on Big Papa, and how he's been pushed to the end of the bench (he's also hurt, which hasn't helped).