The Friday 4 – Harden keeps cooking

By: Josh Weinstein

At Homestand Sports, we’re pleased to provide our weekly 4-for-Four to all of our readers. The goal of the 4-for-Four is to answer four questions weekly, with the goal of recapping the most notable storylines and trends from the past week of NBA action. Enjoy!

Also, be sure to visit homestand.ca to purchase your tickets for the Hoop Talks Toronto Basketball Summit on March 28. Doug Smith, Sherman Hamilton, Paul Jones, Michael Grange, Eric Koreen, and Ashley Docking will be there. Will you?

THE PLAYER
Q: PLAYERS CATCH OUR ATTENTION IN UNEXPECTED WAYS. WHO’S ONE PLAYER LOCALLY OR NATIONALLY WHO YOU’RE WATCHING ESPECIALLY CLOSELY OF LATE?

Even after missing seven games with a hamstring injury, James Harden is still firmly in the MVP conversation. The Beard has been on a tear since returning to the court, averaging a cool 28 points and nine assists per game over his past eight. During that span, the Rockets have gone 7-1. Harden’s dominance included the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history. He shot an incredible 19 of 30 from the field and 17 of 18 from the charity stripe during his historic performance. The Rockets will continue sitting atop the standings so long as Harden is playing at this high a level.

THE TREND
Q: IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START LOOKING FOR TRENDS WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYERS, GENERAL MANAGERS, COACHES, TEAMS OR EVEN THE LEAGUE AS A WHOLE. WHAT’S ONE TREND THAT’S STANDING OUT TO YOU SO FAR IN 2018?

The topic of NBA superteams reemerged this week, with ESPN’s Chris Haynes reporting that LeBron James would listen to a free agent pitch from the Golden State Warriors if the team successfully cleared enough cap space for a max contract.

To be clear, if LeBron were to hypothetically join a team of the Warriors calibre, his legacy would be tarnished forever. The move would prove that James feels he can’t win on his own and has to join the league’s best team to win another NBA title. He’s already made a controversial move in his career once, so don’t count out him making a shocking decision again.

On the flipside, the LeBron news is just a report, so it may not amount to anything by the time the offseason arrives. Haynes is a credible source but ultimately has no idea what decision James will end up making months from now.

Expect the LBJ rumours to continue right up until July 1.

THE SURPRISE
Q: THERE ARE SURPRISE TEAMS EVERY YEAR, AND WHILE MOST END UP FADING AWAY, SOME 
CONTEND ALL YEAR. ARE THERE ANY LEGITIMATE CONTENDERS AMONG THIS YEAR’S SURPRISE CLUBS?

I’m intrigued to see how Blake Griffin performs with the Detroit Pistons going forward. With a frontcourt duo of Griffin and Andre Drummond, Detroit has the potential to reach the postseason in the weaker Eastern Conference. The Pistons are currently just one game out of the eighth-seed and have plenty of time to climb up the standings even more. Do I think this team has a legitimate chance at contending come playoff time? No. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they climbed up to a fifth or sixth-seed by the time the regular season concludes.

The decision to acquire Griffin cost Detroit some valuable pieces in Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. But if the goal of the trade was to increase the hype around this Pistons team, then the deal was a success. The Pistons still lack a bunch of complimentary pieces that can help out Griffin and Drummond, but this team is captivating nonetheless.

(On a side note, I think the Griffin trade is just the latest example of how loyalty barely exists in the NBA anymore. Griffin just signed a five-year max contract seven months ago and got shipped out of L.A. already? After a deal like this, the league’s top players should make it a priority to include no-trade clauses in their contracts in future.)

THE READ
Q: WHAT’S SOMETHING SMART OR INTERESTING YOU READ RECENTLY AND WHY DID IT STAND OUT?

Check out James Herbert’s piece on what drives Raptors star DeMar DeRozan to perform at such a high-level day in and day out. The all-star’s motivation is candid and uncensored, which you’ve got to love if you’re a fan of the NBA and the Toronto Raptors.

Josh Weinstein
joshweinstein21@gmail.com

Writer and podcaster for Homestand Sports and Raptors Republic. Josh has previously worked for Postmedia, covering a wide range of sports.