James Harden Stirring

James Harden submits an MVP performance, Durant gets shut down, a legend retires and the Jazz emerge. Let’s take a look back at the week in the NBA.

On Thursday night, the Rockets honored the team that won back-to-back titles 20 years ago. All the big names from those teams were there: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Otis Thorpe and Mario Elie.

The crowd was amped. The Rocket legends were prepared for a show and James Harden obliged. Harden scored a career-high 50 points in the Rockets 118-108 win over the Nuggets.

It was a sneaky 50, if there has ever been such a thing. Harden didn’t go on long scoring streaks but rather scored when the Rockets needed him to in order to maintain their lead on the beleaguered Nuggs. Harden was 12-27 from the field but 22-25 from the free throw line.

In front of the Rockets’ last MVP winner, their current MVP candidate put on a hell of a show.

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The Oklahoma City Thunder can’t catch a break. On Thursday, GM Sam Presti said that the team would be removing Kevin Durant from basketball activities until he can, “compete without soreness in his foot.”

The organization seems to be taking a hard stance on keeping Durant out of action until he is 100 percent healthy. All this means that there is no realistic timetable for his return to the court.

Durant hasn’t played in a game since February 19th. The Thunder have gone 11-5 without Durant, mostly due to a phenomenal stretch of play by Russell Westbrook.

Durant’s absence during this final stretch of the season is made even more significant due to the fact that the Thunder may have to close the season without Serge Ibaka as well.

The Thunder big man is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season while he recovers from additional surgery on his troublesome knee.

Westbrook has been superhuman this season, accumulating 10 triple-doubles this season. It is the most triple doubles in a season since Jason Kidd back in 2007-08. Westbrook may be able to carry this team to the playoffs, but without Durant their ceiling is limited.

Steve Nash Lakers

On Saturday night the career of Steve Nash came to an unceremonious end. The quiet announcement of his retirement was in line with the way Nash conducted himself over his 19-year NBA career.

Though he is retiring as a Los Angeles Laker, he will forever be remembered as the point guard of those exciting Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000s.

Nash earned back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 and became the first player 6-foot-6 or shorter to ever win multiple MVP awards. He was the tenth player to ever win multiple MVP awards and the other nine are already enshrined in Springfield.

Nash finished his career third on the all-time assists list and first in career free throw percentage (90.4%). He is the only player to ever post four seasons of shooting 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent from 3, and 90 percent from the free throw line.

More than the stats, Steve Nash was fun to watch. Whether running Don Nelson’s high tempo offense with the Mavs or as focal point of Mike D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less scheme in Phoenix, Steve Nash was a force.

Please, go ahead and forget his Lakers years for he deserves to be remembered for more than riding the pine and being injured.

Nash should be remembered for dribbling around the lane until finding a cutting teammate, pull up 3s in transition and amazingly mind-blowing passing. Nash was one of the greatest of his era and you should expect to see him in Springfield Massachusetts five years from now.

Rudy Gobert March 2015

If I were to ask you, “who has been the best team since the All-Star break," who would you say? The Cavs? The Spurs, maybe?

Afraid not. It’s the Utah Jazz.

They just ended a six-game win streak and have gone 12-4 in the month since the All-Star break, and a lot of their success can be traced back to the emergence of Rudy Gobert.

The Stifle Tower has been a game changer for coach Quin Snyder on the defensive end. Due to Gobert’s intimidating shot blocking ability and the absence of the defensive liability that was Enes Kanter, the Jazz have gone from 27th in defensive efficiency to first.

The starting five of the Jazz is just about the youngest in the league, depending on who the Sixers have called up from obscurity on a given night.

The crazy thing is that the Jazz are not yet eliminated from the playoffs. Win 12 games to play, they are nine-and-a-half games back of the Thunder.

It isn’t likely that they’ll make the playoffs, but the experience that this team gets over these next 12 games will prove invaluable for a team that is well ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process.


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