The Thunder's Russell Westbrook may be getting most of the headlines for his dazzling performances this season, but lately his former teammate James Harden seems to be getting his fair share of ink as well, as Harden has been filling the stat sheet while leading the Houston Rockets back into the playoff hunt this season. For more on Harden and the NBA's top stories, read below:
John Wall and James Harden earn Player of the Week honors
The Washington Wizards’ John Wall and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Dec. 26 through Sunday, Jan. 1.
Wall led the Wizards to a 3-0 week, with all three victories coming at home, where Washington has won eight consecutive games. He averaged 24.3 points (eighth in the East), an NBA-leading 13.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.67 steals (second in the East) for the week. After opening the week with 18 points and a season-high 16 assists in a 107-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 26, Wall recorded 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 111-105 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 28.
Harden lifted the Rockets to a 4-0 week by leading the NBA in scoring (37.3 ppg), ranking second in the league in assists (12.5 apg) and finishing tied for eighth in the West in rebounding (9.8 rpg). In addition to shooting 56.0 percent from the field, 45.9 percent from three-point range and 88.9 percent from the free throw line, Harden scored 30 or more points and handed out at least 10 assists in all four games.
The 27-year-old Houston guard closed the week with back-to-back triple-doubles, including a historic performance in a 129-122 victory against the New York Knicks on Dec. 31, when Harden scored a career-high 53 points, equaled a career best with 17 assists and grabbed a Rockets-season-high 16 rebounds.
Harden became the first player in NBA history to have at least 50 points, 15 assists, and 15 rebounds in a game, and he tied Wilt Chamberlain (1968) for the most points in a triple-double.
Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, LA Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Portland’s C.J. McCollum and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
Which leads us too . . .
John Wall and James Harden named NBA Players of the Month
Perhaps it's no coincidence that the two latest Player of the Week honorees, also received monthly recognition, as the Washington Wizards’ John Wall and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in December.
Wall led the Eastern Conference in assists (10.7 apg) and steals (2.67 spg) and ranked fifth in scoring (24.5 ppg) as the Wizards (10-5) posted their first 10-win month since December 2014. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week was one of only three players to average a point-assist double-double in December, joining Harden and the LA Clippers’ Chris Paul.
Wall, who scored a career-high 52 points in a 124-116 loss to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 6, shot 49.1 percent from the field and 81.4 percent from the free throw line for the month.
Harden led the league in assists (12.0 apg) and ranked fourth in scoring (28.3 ppg) as the Rockets (15-2) tied a franchise record for wins in a month and outscored their opponents by an average of 12.9 points per game. Harden added 9.1 rebounds and 1.53 steals while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 85.9 percent from the free throw line.
Other nominees for NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Cleveland’s LeBron James, Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Harden and Westbrook racking up triple-doubles
Triple-doubles have been a dominant storyline during the 2016-17 season, thanks largely to Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden, who square off tonight when the Thunder visits the Rockets at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.
Westbrook (16) and Harden (nine) have combined for 25 of the NBA’s 42 triple-doubles this season. With the two star guards leading the way, the league is on pace for 97 triple-doubles this season – which would shatter the NBA record of 78 set in 1988-89. (There were 75 last season, the second-highest total of all time.)
More triple-double notes on Westbrook and Harden:
• Westbrook is on pace to finish with 36 triple-doubles this season. Oscar Robertson holds the single-season record with 41 in 1961-62, followed by Wilt Chamberlain with 31 in 1967-68.
• Westbrook is only two triple-doubles from matching last season’s total of 18, which is tied for eighth in NBA history.
• Westbrook and Harden have both recorded a triple-double with at least 50 points this season. The last player to do so was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975.
• Harden has registered a triple-double in each of his last three games, becoming the first player in Rockets history to accomplish the feat.
• Westbrook leads active players and ranks sixth in NBA history with 53 career triple-doubles. Harden is fourth among active players with 18 career triple-doubles.
Ben Golliver, SI.com: “[U]nforgettable and exhilarating moments are happening quite often this season. Indeed, the NBA is in the midst of a 50-point boom, one that has gradually picked up steam in recent years and that threatens to reach new heights.”
Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “[Harrison] Barnes’ quantum leap this season to a 20-point-plus scorer has opened doors for the Mavericks.”
Isaiah Thomas, Celtics: “I always say, fourth quarter isn’t for everybody. I embrace it. I know my teammates and my coaching staff look to me to be very aggressive in the fourth quarter, not just to score, but to make winning plays. I embrace that moment and I always have. It’s just something that I’m pretty good at, I guess.”
Joel Embiid and Buddy Hield named NBA Rookies of the Month
The Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Buddy Hield were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in December.
Embiid, 22, the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, led all rookies in scoring (19.8 ppg), rebounding (6.8 rpg) and blocked shots (2.40 bpg) in December. He also attempted a rookie-high 73 free throws in 10 games, hitting 78.1 percent. The 7-foot center scored 23 or more points in four of his last five games during the month, highlighted by a career-high 33-point performance to go with 10 rebounds in a 108-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 18.
Hield, 23, the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, led West rookies in scoring (10.6 ppg) and three-point field goal percentage (47.8) and topped all first-year players in three-pointers made (33). The 6-4 guard scored in double figures nine times in 16 games, including 12 or more points in each of the final three games of December (a 3-0 stretch for New Orleans). On Dec. 15, Hield set career highs with 21 points and five three-pointers in a 102-95 victory against the Indiana Pacers.
Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Brooklyn’s Isaiah Whitehead, Dallas’ Dorian Finney-Smith, Denver’s Jamal Murray, Memphis’ Andrew Harrison, Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, Philadelphia’s Dario Saric, and Phoenix’s Marquese Chriss.
Indiana Pacers: Coach Nate McMillan’s team has its first three-game winning streak of the season entering tonight’s home game against Brooklyn.
CJ McCollum, Trail Blazers: After Wednesday’s 35-point performance against the Warriors, the fourth-year guard has as many 30-point games this season (eight) as the rest of his career combined (eight, all last season).
Atlanta Hawks: Atlanta is 9-4 in its last 13 games, including a current four-game winning streak.
Danny Green, Spurs: The 29-year-old guard ranks fourth in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 46.3, up from 33.2 percent last season. As a team, San Antonio leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 41.1.
Elfrid Payton, Magic: In his last 12 games, Payton is averaging 13.8 points (on 48.6 percent shooting), 7.3 assists and only 1.7 turnovers in 29.2 minutes. He has two 14-assist games off the bench during that stretch.
Zach LaVine, Timberwolves: He has made 100 three-pointers in 34 games this season (2.9 per game) after hitting 123 threes in 82 games last season (1.5 per game). Only seven other players have connected on at least 100 triples so far this season.
Buddy Hield, Pelicans: The 23-year-old guard, who was recently named the NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December, is averaging 15.8 points on 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 55.0 percent from three-point range over his last four games.
T.J. McConnell, 76ers: As a starter in the Sixers' last two games, the undrafted second-year guard matched a career high with 17 points and added eight assists in Friday's two-point victory over Denver and followed that performance with eight assists in a two-point win over Minnesota on Tuesday.
Andre Iguodala to co-host NBA Inside Stuff
Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors – the 2015 NBA Finals MVP – will serve as co-host alongside Kristen Ledlow on an all-new episode of NBA Inside Stuff on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 4 p.m. ET on NBA TV.
In the episode, Ledlow and Iguodala discuss the Warriors exciting start to the season. Additionally, Iguodala’s teammate Draymond Green will be featured in a segment called Playlist that goes in-depth with players on their favorite pre-game music, food and fashion.
In anticipation of next week’s NBA Global Games London 2017, Inside Stuff will also feature Ledlow’s pre-season tour of England, where she helped spread excitement for the league.
NBA TV will provide live coverage of the NBA Global Games London 2017 on Thursday, Jan. 12 when the Indiana Pacers and Paul George play the Denver Nuggets and Danilo Gallinari at the O2 Arena in London at 3 p.m.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: His week has included a game-winning buzzer-beater against the Knicks as well as a regional cover and feature story in Sports Illustrated.
10-Day Contracts: NBA teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts today.
LeBron and Kyrie lead All-Star voting
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are the top two vote-getters overall, while Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors lead all Western Conference players in the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017.
The first week of fan voting for the 66th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place on Sunday, Feb. 19 in New Orleans, produced close races in both conferences and generated 138% more votes cast (11,174,153) than during the same time period last year (4,693,433).
James, a 12-time All-Star, received 595,288 votes to earn the top spot among all players. Joining James at the top of the Eastern Conference frontcourt are the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (500,663) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (250,347), with rookie Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers (221,984) next on the list. Irving (543,030) and 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade of the Chicago Bulls (278,052) lead the East guards, followed by the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan (253,340).
Durant, who owns the highest scoring average in All-Star Game history (25.6 ppg), paces all West players with 541,209 votes. He is followed in the West frontcourt by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (439,675) and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (341,240), who edges the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (318,144). Curry (523,597) narrowly tops a tight race among West guards, with the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (519,446) edging two-time reigning All-Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (501,652) for second place.
For the first time ever, NBA players and basketball media will join fans in selecting the starters for the NBA All-Star Game. Fans will account for 50 percent of the vote, while all current players and a media panel will account for 25 percent each. Player and media voting will begin next week, with each participant completing one full ballot featuring two guards and three frontcourt players from both conferences.
After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes. Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes. The five players (two guards and three frontcourt players) with the best score in each conference will be named NBA All-Star Game starters. Fan voting will serve as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score.
See below for the first fan returns of NBA All-Star Voting 2017.
NBA ALL-STAR VOTING 2017
1 LeBron James (CLE) 595,288
2 Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 500,663
3 Kevin Love (CLE) 250,347
4 Joel Embiid (PHI) 221,984
5 Carmelo Anthony (NY) 189,817
6 Jimmy Butler (CHI) 189,066
7 Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 184,166
8 Paul George (IND) 138,332
9 Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 72,628
10 Jabari Parker (MIL) 64,141
1 Kyrie Irving (CLE) 543,030
2 Dwyane Wade (CHI) 278,052
3 DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 253,340
4 Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 193,297
5 Derrick Rose (NY) 129,924
6 Kyle Lowry (TOR) 128,940
7 John Wall (WAS) 87,360
8 Jeremy Lin (BKN) 59,562
9 Kemba Walker (CHA) 52,122
10 Avery Bradley (BOS) 32,822
1 Kevin Durant (GS) 541,209
2 Zaza Pachulia (GS) 439,675
3 Kawhi Leonard (SA) 341,240
4 Anthony Davis (NO) 318,144
5 Draymond Green (GS) 236,315
6 DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 202,317
7 Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 125,278
8 LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 101,724
9 Blake Griffin (LAC) 100,524
10 Marc Gasol (MEM) 97,370
1 Stephen Curry (GS) 523,597
2 James Harden (HOU) 519,446
3 Russell Westbrook (OKC) 501,652
4 Klay Thompson (GS) 293,054
5 Chris Paul (LAC) 173,830
6 Damian Lillard (POR) 117,857
7 Eric Gordon (HOU) 76,609
8 Manu Ginobili (SA) 65,832
9 Andre Iguodala (GS) 64,247
10 Zach LaVine (MIN) 53,642
Dwane Casey and Mike D’Antoni named NBA Coaches of the Month
The Toronto Raptors’ Dwane Casey and the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively, for games played in December.
Casey guided the Raptors to a 10-4 record in December, highlighted by two four-game winning streaks that started during the month. Toronto had identical 5-2 records at home and on the road, including a 101-94 victory at the Boston Celtics on Dec. 9 and a 104-98 win at the Utah Jazz on Dec. 23. The Raptors led the Eastern Conference in scoring (112.1 ppg) and point differential (11.1 per game).
In December, Toronto set franchise records for largest margin of victory (a 44-point win, 128-84, over the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 3) and consecutive road wins (seven, with the first two victories coming in November).
D’Antoni led the Rockets to an NBA-best 15-2 record in December as Houston tied a franchise record for wins in a month. Behind NBA Western Conference Player of the Month James Harden, the Rockets paced the league in scoring (120.9 ppg) and point differential (12.9). They also made an NBA-high 16.4 three-pointers per game, hitting 111 more than their opponents for the month.
Houston opened the month with a 132-127 double-overtime road victory over the league-leading Golden State Warriors on Dec. 1.
Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month were Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Memphis’ David Fizdale, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, Utah’s Quin Snyder and Washington’s Scott Brooks.
Jerry Stackhouse named D-League Coach of the Month
Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse was named the NBA Development League Coach of the Month for games played in December.
Stackhouse guided Raptors 905 to a 9-3 record in December, the best month in franchise history. The team won seven straight games to start the month, including a 5-0 mark on the road. Under Stackhouse, Raptors 905 opponents are averaging a league-low 96.8 points per game.
Stackhouse is in his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors last season. He played 18 seasons in the NBA and was a two-time All-Star. Stackhouse was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the third overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.
Other coaches who received consideration for the monthly award were Fort Wayne’s Steve Gansey, Los Angeles’ Coby Karl, Northern Arizona’s Ty Ellis, Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, Sioux Falls’ Nevada Smith and Texas’ Bob MacKinnon.
Keith Benson named D-League Player of the Month
Sioux Falls Skyforce center Keith Benson was named the NBA Development League Player of the Month for games played in December.
Benson (6-11, Oakland) led Sioux Falls to a 9-3 record behind averages of 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. He scored in double figures in all 12 games and tallied at least 18 points eight times. Benson also recorded three or more blocks in eight of 12 games.
On Dec. 23, he scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds in a 103-84 victory over the Iowa Energy. Benson finished the month by scoring a career-high 33 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and recording five blocks in a 110-109 loss to the Salt Lake City Stars on Dec. 30.
Other players who received consideration for the monthly award were Austin’s Cory Jefferson, Delaware’s Shawn Long, Fort Wayne’s Trey McKinney-Jones, Maine’s Jalen Jones, Northern Arizona’s Elijah Millsap, Oklahoma City’s Daniel Hamilton, Raptors 905’s Axel Toupane and Texas’ Pierre Jackson.
Manny Harris named D-League Performer of the Week
Manny Harris of the Texas Legends was named NBA Development League Performer of the Week for games played Monday, Dec. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 1.
Harris (6-5, 185, Michigan) led Texas to a 1-1 week, averaging a league-best 38.0 points on 57.4 percent shooting to go with 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals. On Dec. 28, he scored 47 points on 17-of-28 shooting to go with five rebounds, a season-high-tying five assists and three steals in a 130-125 win over the Austin Spurs. On Dec. 30, he had 29 points, five rebounds and three assists in a 112-104 loss to the Reno Bighorns.
Harris is averaging a league-leading 27.2 points on 46.3 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals (second in the league) on the season. Harris was selected to the NBA D-League All-Star Game in 2014.
Other top performers considered included Austin’s Bryn Forbes, Iowa’s Troy Williams, Los Angeles’ Vander Blue, Maine’s Jalen Jones, Northern Arizona’s Johnny O’Bryant III, Raptors 905’s Axel Toupane, Rio Grande Valley’s Darius Morris and Sioux Falls’ Keith Benson.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services