James Harden has painted himself into a corner by saying the MVP should play all 82 games. He’s hurt, but now he can’t sit or else he’ll lose out on the MVP due to his own logic that voters will be all-too-glad to use against him. It will make their lives easier and they can vote for Russell Westbrook with a clear conscience without being ridiculed in the future.
This is the storyline for the Rockets heading into April: Harden is hurt, but he can’t sit.
Part of me wants him to sit. Get healthy and move on from the MVP award. The media likely wasn’t going to hand it to a player they have always hated. Don’t get caught up in it, I think. Just get healthy for the postseason. That’s your real legacy.
However, that’s not completely true. With the narrative regarding a player orbiting around “RINGZ,” there’s only one way to make your mark during the regular season, and that’s by winning MVP. Heck, the Warriors won 73 games last season but they will always be remembered for blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals despite having homecourt advantage and the first-ever unanimous MVP. Rings matter most now. But if you can’t get one of those, an MVP award is historically significant.
Tonight, as the Rockets take on the Warriors in a game that Houston still doesn’t require (Houston needs three out of 14 games between their own and Utah’s to go their way to lock up the three seed), the story will be focused on James Harden’s wrist and his MVP chances. If he loses, look for the narrative to switch to “Harden can’t beat good teams so he’s not the MVP.”
But don’t forget that the team on the other side of the court has its priorities in order. It’s championship or bust. While the Rockets aren’t there yet in terms of team construction, it’s important for them to keep getting taught a lesson about what really matters.
Prediction: Houston is going to get crushed tonight. The Warriors are still trying to wrap up the top spot and Houston is cruising to the finish line at this point. Also, it doesn’t help that the Rockets are on the second night of a back-to-back against the league’s best team. In their building, no less. It’s a schedule loss if I’ve ever seen one.
Tip-off is at 9:30pm CT on ESPN.