CHICAGO - Despite nursing a mild flu which I dragged with me from California, I turned on the TV today when an ESPN breaking news ticker announced that James Harden had already scored 36 by halftime in what would be the Rockets' 112-94 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Watching Harden rack up his tally to a personal season-best of 57 made me so woozy the wife had to slap me at least twice just to keep me awake. He was a boring one-man offense that made four teammates stand around waiting for crumbs.
He shot 33 of Houston's field 84 field goals and went to the free throw line 18 times. He only had two assists. a reflection of an unwillingness to share the ball. And he stumbled his way to five turnovers.
Apparently, the new generation of basketball fans love this garbage.
Sorry for not sharing your enthusiasm. I'm no hater. I am simply old school and embrace the kind of basketball where the ball moves and doesn't stick.
And everybody plays defense, including the team's best player.
There is a website that tracks how many kills an action star scores in a movie. For instance, Chuck Norris rendered last rites to 59 bad guys in the 1986 flick Missing in Action while Sylvester Stallone went berserk and executed 72 terrorists as a mercenary in the 2008 Rambo remake.
I don't know if there is a website that tracks how many dribbles Harden pounds in each game. But I do know that tracking such movement would make my head shake repeatedly, which then likely induces a stiff neck and vertigo.
In sharp contrast, when Klay Thompson dropped 43 points against the hapless Knicks last January 8, he did so with just FOUR dribbles. Klay jacked up only 29 of the Warriors' 96 field goals while shooting 62 percent from the field and 43 percent from long distance.
Thompson's feat of Klay encapsulates efficiency and beautiful basketball.
And that's not my so-called Golden State bias talking. It's just the bare naked truth. The numbers do not lie.
Harden's recent outburst increased his streak of scoring at least 30 points to 17 games. Impressive, sure, but it doesn't disinfect the stench of his 1-for-17 shooting from 3-point land in Houston's 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic the day before.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey told NBA.com that "you could argue for him (Harden) as the best offensive player ever."
Has Morey, in his infinite metrics wisdom, heard of guys named Michael, Larry, Magic and Kobe?
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni felt similarly infatuated with his star player and told ESPN "It's 57! I mean, on dead legs and he played 43 minutes last night."
Duh, Harden is a ball hog who will willingly play 48 minutes per as long as he chucks volume field goals while putting minimal effort on defense. It's kind of like the fat guy who attacks the buffet table any chance he gets.
They say Harden's step-back jumper is lethal. I say it's illegal. Steps back jumpers.
So before we hand him his second straight MVP award, why don't we step back and reflect whether a guy who is shooting 43.7 percent from the field for the season and whose assist-to-turnover ratio is a hideous 8.6 to 5.6 truly deserves the honor.
The real substantive story in Houston is the thumb injury that will sideline Clint Capela for up to six weeks.
The Rockets will miss the 6-foot-10, 240-pound center. Not only did he average 17.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per, he also provided the wall that fenced Harden from would-be harassers.
No Chris Paul. No Eric Gordon. No Capela.
Harden is here to save the day and hoist the Rockets on his back.
Which means more dribbles, more turnovers, and tons of field goals.