James Harden's Rockets debut was amazing


James Harden's Rockets debut was amazing

From Comcast SportsNetAUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- James Harden agreed to a big new contract extension -- and he certainly looked worth it in his first game with the Houston Rockets.Harden had 37 points and 12 assists in a stirring debut for his new team, and Carlos Delfino made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to lift the Rockets to a 105-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.Detroit led 83-72 early in the fourth, but Harden and Delfino brought the Rockets back. Houston acquired Harden on Saturday night in a trade with Oklahoma City and agreed Wednesday on a five-year, 80 million contract extension with him."I think I just wanted to get out there and play," Harden said. "All the talking and all the craziness that has been happening this last week -- I just wanted to go out there and play basketball."The reigning Sixth Man of the Year fell just short of his career high of 40 points, and his 12 assists were a career best. Not bad for a guy still adjusting to new teammates and a new situation.Harden started only seven games in three seasons in Oklahoma City, as he developed into an indispensable reserve. But he was in the starting lineup Wednesday and looked ready to play a bigger role with Houston."I just tried to score and create opportunities," Harden said. "Carlos Delfino came in hot. I just tried to get my bigs involved. A lot of different guys stepped up, and I think that's how it's going to be throughout this entire season."Jeremy Lin, Houston's other big acquisition, had 12 points and eight assists. The Rockets won without Patrick Patterson, who was out with a left quad strain.Brandon Knight led Detroit with 15 points.With Houston down 11 points, Harden started the comeback with a 3-pointer, and Greg Smith followed with a dunk. Detroit led only 85-83 after consecutive 3-pointers by Delfino, then a layup by Chandler Parsons tied it.Smith dunked to put the Rockets ahead 89-87, and he dunked again to make it a four-point game before hobbling off with what he later said was a minor left foot injury. By then, Houston was already taking control of the game behind its two new playmakers, Harden and Lin."They're very smart players. You've got to give credit to them," Smith said. "They know what they're doing on the court. They're very intelligent."A dunk by Detroit's Jonas Jerebko cut the lead to two, but Delfino made two more 3-pointers to make it 97-89.Harden pretty much put the game away with a three-point play with 1:27 remaining that put Houston ahead 104-94."They keep it so simple as far as just spreading it out and letting him create," Detroit's Rodney Stuckey said. "Pick and rolls, that's pretty much what got us. They did a good job of spreading us out. He was getting in the lane, making shots and finding his teammates and they were making shots, too."Attendance was announced at 16,646 at the Palace, and there were plenty of empty seats on Halloween. The fans who did turn out saw an entertaining performance by the Pistons that ultimately fell short.Harden scored 19 points in the first half, but Detroit led 58-55 after a 36-point second quarter."I thought it was a challenge for James to kind of figure out what we were doing," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We put some plays in that he was comfortable with that they ran at Oklahoma City."The Rockets led 65-58 after Harden's two-handed dunk off a nice one-handed bounce pass from Lin. The Pistons looked terrific for the rest of the quarter. They scored 13 straight points -- including consecutive dunks by Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell -- to take a 71-65 lead.A 3-pointer by Harden cut the deficit to two, but Detroit ran off another eight straight points and led 79-69 following a basket by Kyle Singler.It was 81-72 after three quarters.NOTES:Detroit's Corey Maggette was out with a left calf strain. ... There was a brief delay near the end of the second quarter when what looked like steam began coming out of a generator behind one of the baskets. ... Stuckey went 1 for 10 from the field. ... Pistons owner Tom Gores was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of the team someday playing in downtown Detroit. "You don't want to leave and say, Nice to see you, the Palace.' I don't think you want to do that," Gores said. "If the future is downtown and that's what we have to do to grow, I'm not against that."

Durant falling in love with Bay Area doesn't mean he hates OKC

Durant falling in love with Bay Area doesn't mean he hates OKC

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant will not come out and say it with any real conviction. He won’t. He can’t. Not without being judged without jury.

He’s falling in love with the Bay Area.

Durant, having signed with the Warriors in July, is enthralled with the place one former local football head coach once described as “God’s Country.” He has spent recent weeks settling in and getting out and finds himself swept up in the charms of Oakland and San Francisco and other cities and towns – and the people within – that constitute one of the world’s unique locations.

What was speculated upon Durant’s July 4 decision to sign with the Warriors is being confirmed with each passing day. Though he is here to play basketball in a style he likes, with teammates he has bonded with, he also wants to dive into the Bay Area’s endless cultural smorgasbord.

This does not in any way indicate Durant suddenly hates Oklahoma City or the Thunder or the residents of the state due north of Texas. He called the place home for the better part of a decade. He opened businesses there. He donated his time and money. He gave to the area and the area loved him for it.

But the man clearly craved new experiences and sought new challenges, as well as a dramatically different vantage point. The window through which he views life is bigger in the Bay Area than it ever could have been in Oklahoma City.

Durant won’t say it. But the evidence continues to reveal itself.

He’s riding public transportation. He’s going to record stores – yes, record stores. He’s walking the streets and taking in the sights. He’s going to concerts and, for crying out loud, rubbing shoulders with the folks who shop the clearance rack as well as those who can afford tickets to see the Warriors.

“It was fun,” Durant said of his semi-organized tour last week. “Nike did a great job of coordinating everything. I just tried to get out and touch the people a little bit and let ‘em know I’m here.”

From BART with the people to Sunday night and the risky undertaking of joining the mosh pit beneath the floating stage on which Kanye West performed at Oracle Arena.

A four-time scoring champ and former MVP . . . in a mosh pit with about 3,000 people crammed on the arena floor.

“I used to take the train to school every day, to high school, so I’ve had that experience before,” Durant said of his BART excursion. “But the Kanye thing, that was different. It was fun, man. That whole experience was something I’ve never felt before. I was happy I was able to get the chance to go.

“It was nuts. It was nuts. Just seeing all the videos throughout the summer and never having a chance to get to a show . . . so I’m glad it came through here. I was telling all my friends the whole summer I wanted to get into a mosh pit. It was amazing.”

Could you imagine Kobe Bryant in a mosh pit? Tim Duncan? Michael Jordan? Durant didn’t care. This was something he wanted to do, and could do. He felt it. So he did it.

Judge him at your own risk.

This is Durant spreading his wings in a way he never could in Oklahoma City simply because he has entered an appreciably broader cultural zone. If he didn’t outgrow OKC – he doesn’t dare say that – he surely welcomes the vast societal and intellectual diversity of his new home.

Durant already was somewhat familiar with the area. His first NBA agent, Aaron Goodwin, is an Oakland resident. When Durant came to town with his previous teams, he would, if time permitted, visit ballparks and restaurants and other various attractions.

This is now his home. He said as much on Monday. And he obviously enjoys the new digs and all its trappings.

Durant loved what he had, and now he loves what he has. When someone moves out of one home and into another, larger home, does that have to mean he didn’t like the old place?

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

49ers players get week break, while coaches search for answers

SANTA CLARA -- In the early afternoon Monday after the 49ers’ day-after-game meetings concluded, the players were excused for the next seven days.

Coach Chip Kelly opted to give the 49ers a week break, rather than going through a couple days of practices before providing the players with a mandatory four consecutive days off during the bye week.

The 49ers on Sunday dropped to 1-6 on the season with a 34-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But there will be no extra practices to attempt to sharpen their performance.

“They’ve been at it since July 31st,” Kelly said. “They haven’t had more than one day off in a row. So I think at this point in time that’s what our whole MO has always been.

“They’ll meet with our strength and conditioning coaches. They have their lifting programs in terms of what they can do and what they have to do. And I think at this point in time we need to heal up. I think it’s a good break for them to do what they need to do and that’s the way I’ve always done it and our teams have been fresh coming out of the bye week.”

While the players will be off for a week, Kelly said the coaching staff will continue to work through Friday in an attempt to identify areas in which they can improve and snap out of their six-game losing streak on Nov. 6 against the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium.

“We’ve got a lot of self-scout that we have set aside,” Kelly said. “We’ll be in here all week kind of looking at what we’ve done in the first seven games, what have our opponents done to us in the first seven games relative to what we thought going into the game based on the break downs. Did they change?

“If they were 60-percent pressure going into our game and they were only 30-percent pressure in our game, trying to delve into how people are defending us. How are people attacking us from an offensive standpoint in terms of attacking our defense and what their tendencies were going into the game and then what actually transpired in the game. So we’ve got a lot of film work and a lot of studying to do here during this week.”

Kelly reiterated on Monday that he is not looking at leaving the 49ers after this season. He said he has not heard from any schools with coaching openings or potential openings. Kelly said he has tried to remain focused on his job through the longest losing streak he has ever experienced as a coach.

“No one’s happy, so I don’t know if the word’s anguish, but I mean obviously you try to keep it consistent in terms of your approach to everything that you do,” Kelly said. “I don’t think being consistent and being even-keeled means that it doesn’t bother you or that you’re not frustrated in terms of what’s gone on.”

Kelly said the 49ers have the talent to win games. When asked why the coaches have not been able to extract more victories, Kelly placed the blame for the team’s poor play on himself and his staff.

“That’s on us,” Kelly said. “I agree 100-percent in terms of what you’re saying. But our job is to put our players in position to make plays and we’re not doing a good enough job of that right now.”