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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Much to His Chagrin

Much to my chagrin, I have had to wait until my senior year to witness the talents of Michael Reilly '12 and Ryan McManus '15. The two men leading Dartmouth's receiving corps didn't see much action until this season, but their dual breakout was worth the wait. Both Reilly and McManus have surpassed the 500 receiving yards mark after last week's win against Cornell, and McManus even caught the attention of the folks at ESPN when he snagged a spot on SportsCenter's "Top 10." The tandem is characterized by balanced success, but not all stories are so equitable.

The same uncompromising standards of the Reilly-McManus combination can't be duplicated by every fresh-on-the-scene duo. Rather than beginning with similar levels of expectations, scores of one-two punches have played through drastically different experiences during their careers. One such example of an odd couple is the new look back court of the Houston Rockets featuring James Harden and Jeremy Lin. The brawn and the brain. The workhorse and the celebrity. The bearded and the clean-shaven.

The intriguing back-court union only emerged in Houston after Plans A and B both failed. General Manager Daryl Morey, the NBA's personification of the advanced statistics phenomenon, set his sights this offseason on a marquee acquisition, with the disgruntled Dwight Howard at the top of his list. As the Bentleys and Rolls-Royces left the lot, Morey refused to accept that an illustrious talent couldn't end up in Houston during the summer of 2012.

Enter Jeremy Lin and his new three-year, $24-million contract. The relative heft of the contract for the unproven point guard seemed unwarranted, unless you consider how the basketball world and wider punditry class yielded to the force of nature that was Linsanity. But the Jeremy Lin craze, though potent, was incredibly short-lived, lasting from Feb. 4, when he first started scoring in the double digits, to March 24, when his season was cut short by a small meniscus tear in his left knee. The midseason injury to Carmelo Anthony left the Knicks' offense without a primary playmaker, a role Lin easily slid into. After leading the Knicks to a mesmerizing seven-game win streak (scoring 20+ points in six of them), opposing defenses started preparing for Lin's pick n' roll prowess, and his effectiveness started to diminish. You don't need to take Econ 10 to understand that making long-term projections about Mr. Lin would be small sample size theater, but in the age of Nate Silver and Billy Beane, shouldn't Morey's stat-geekery supersede an ephemeral, media-hyped episode in the first place?

Eventually it did, but not because of Linspired revelations it was due to the arrival of James Harden just days before the regular season. Harden has made a name for himself in the NBA as the bearded beast off the bench who takes over the offensive reigns for the Oklahoma City Thunder when superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook take a seat. Unlike Lin, Harden's record has proven to be remarkably consistent, culminating in Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, followed by a trip to London with Team USA. Even with the tremendous respect accorded to Thunder General Manager Sam Presti's decision-making, the choice to send Harden to Houston elicited a collective grimace from those cheering for OKC.

The Rockets' foremost question now is not whether Jeremy Lin can recapture the magic of Linsanity (he hasn't) but whether James Harden can reliably be the focal point of an offense while also garnering more attention from opposing defenses. Through four games, the answer is unambiguously affirmative. Harden's 30.3 points per game leads the league. He launched his tenure with the Rockets on opening night by scoring 38 points, then put up 45 points two days later both victories. Harden has returned to Earth in the Rockets last two losses, scoring 24 and 15, but the question has already been put to rest.

In any case, all these doubters only needed to call up the Much to His Chagrin hotline to hear about the inevitable dominance of James Harden with the Rockets. Just one day after Oklahoma City shipped Harden to Texas, I managed to steal Harden in the second round of my fantasy basketball draft. By the way, Morey was confident in Harden's abilities, too, handing him a five-year, $80-million contract. In the meantime, I will ride the bearded man to a fantasy championship if only there was something catchier than "Hardenmania."