Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/29/12
HOUSTON James Harden is universally considered an All-Star-caliber player. He was on the Olympic team, for Pete's sake. He's great. Nobody disputes this. So it is curious that he has changed teams this year, from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets, and yet the Thunder do not appear to have gotten any worse and the Rockets do not appear to have gotten any better. He was like a chubby kid hopping off the teeter totter, except that nothing happened. "I don't look at it that way," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "He was a great player for us, an All-Star player. He's gonna be that way for many, many, many years." Still, the Thunder (23-6) crushed the Rockets (16-14) 124-94 on Saturday night at Toyota Center. It was the Rockets' fourth game in five nights, and looked that way. They shot 40 percent, turned it over 24 times and got demolished (53-36) on the glass. The score was 52-50 OKC at one point, and that was as far as Houston could push it. "We aren't laying brick in 110-degree weather," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who was perturbed by a series of mental lapses. "Since everybody has played basketball they've been a little bit tired. You just got to go out and push through it." Russell Westbrook scored 28 and Kevin Durant scored 26 to lead the Thunder, which had more than enough to handle 25 points from Harden and a career-high 24 from Marcus Morris. So much has changed, and yet so little has changed. "Our coach does a great job of incorporating the new guys we've got," Kevin Durant said. It does help that the main new guy, former Rocket Kevin Martin, is averaging 15.8 points off the bench. He's a much different player than Harden, but the Thunder have been able to make it work just the same. Martin popped off the bench Saturday (at which point he was booed for some reason) and immediately hit two 3s. He finished with 19 in his old arena. "It was great to see the faces of the coaching staff," he said. "Not too many of the players are still here." Now we're getting somewhere. Acquiring Harden required a series of personnel moves that more or less erased whatever the Rockets had been while Martin was around. Without Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Samuel Dalembert and Chase Budinger, the Rockets are younger, faster, more entertaining. Not better, but heading in a certain direction. There is an identity now. But the Thunder have an identity, too: Defending Western Conference champions. "Bottom line is we play a bunch of guys that have not had this type of role before in the NBA," McHale said. "Marcus Morris has played 35 games, maybe. We're playing against a team that's been together eight years. Omer (Asik) has never started before in his career. Jeremy (Lin) has never started a season." McHale points to little things. A bad 3-pointer here, an attempt at a great play there when a solid play would do. Understanding time, score, momentum. "There is a flow to the game that you have to understand," he said. "And until you understand the flow of the game, it's hard to understand what you have to do." The Thunder experienced none of those woes. So they got to skip off into the night. They miss Harden. You can tell. But it's the way you miss a friend, not an All-Star. "He's a brother for life," Durant said. "I think he's going to be a part of the Thunder for life, even though he's playing for a different team." Kind words. Maybe even true ones. Harden, naturally, was not feeling so expressive. "We were careless with the ball," he said. "I don't know how to explain everything, but at least get a shot up and not turn the ball over."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Austin Rivers out 4-6 weeks with broken hand

Brett Favre Hall of Fame discussion took less than 10 seconds

WATCH: Pop wishes Kobe well in heartfelt message

Eric Berry named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Cam Newton to be named NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Sacramento Kings seriously considering firing George Karl

Rick Pitino says school should be penalized, 'but not this team'

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban defends hack-a-player strategy

Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy headline Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Terrell Owens says he was not elected to Hall of Fame

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

$40,000 in Super Bowl tickets stolen from San Francisco hotel

Rams fan makes Super Bowl commercial ripping Stan Kroenke

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker