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Smack / Nov 1, 2012 / 6:40 am

James Harden Goes Berserk in Houston Debut; Lakers fall to 0-2

James Harden

As far as scintillating debuts go, James Harden‘s first game with the Rockets fell somewhere between Cam Newton in Carolina and The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Everything the Rockets could have envisioned when they traded for Harden and inked him to an $80 million deal, he put on display Tuesday: Harden had six rebounds, 12 assists, four steals and a block, and he dropped 37 points in a win over Detroit, shattering the Rockets’ franchise record for most points in a debut … And remember, Harden didn’t play any preseason games with his new team. This was literally his first time playing with Jeremy Lin (12 pts, 8 asts, 4 stls) and Carlos Delfino (15 pts, 5 threes) and Greg Smith (D-League alum who had some big dunks in the second half), but it looked like they’d been ripping up playground runs for years together. Yeah, it was against the Pistons (as ESPN’s Bruce Bowen made extra sure to point out), but right now there’s no doubt Houston has their franchise cornerstone and maybe even got a bargain for that $80 million … The Pistons broadcast was doing the celebrity roll call — which was slim pickings outside of Ndamukong Suh and Kid Rock — when a big dude sitting next to Suh who probably plays for the Detroit Lions started hamming for the camera. But Pistons announcer George Blaha clearly had no idea who the guy was, so after an awkward pause all he could say was, “and the list goes on.” … The sky is falling on the Lakers, who are one loss away from being unable to achieve an 80-win regular season. Panic! Call the National Guard! Fire Mike Brown and trade Pau Gasol! The West Coast dream team fell to 0-2 after last night’s loss in Portland, despite 30 points from Kobe and 33 from Dwight Howard. They also lost Steve Nash, who suffered a shin contusion and left the game with just two points and four assists. You think Derek Fisher is sitting somewhere watching this with an evil grin on his face? … Turnovers helped kill the Lakers in this one (they had 24), but it was more a case of the Blazers simply playing a better game. They had more energy, more speed, they shared the ball more, and it was obvious — just like it was in L.A.’s opener against Dallas — that the Lakers have a big target on their backs and will have teams playing them with the same chip on the shoulder that the defending NBA champions see every night. Rookie PG Damian Lillard put up 23 points and 11 assists for Portland, while Nic Batum had 26 points and three steals and didn’t punch anybody in the nuts … It’s only two games in, and the Lakers are too talented and too experienced not to be in the mix for a title next summer, but right now their problems are the same problems you could’ve predicted before they’d played a preseason game together: The bench is thin, injuries are becoming an issue for an aging starting lineup, and opposing point guards are having little trouble getting into the lane and creating defensive breakdowns. So if you were really paying attention and not getting swept up in the big-name mania, the Lakers are what we thought they were … Keep reading to hear about Anthony Davis’ NBA debut versus Tim Duncan …

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