By Andy Roth
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
Kris Humphries is making headlines on the court and James Harden is putting some thunder into Oklahoma City's offense. Here are those stories and more in my latest take on the NBA:
NEW JERSEY NETS
Kris Humphries is probably best known for being reality star Kim Kardashian's boyfriend, but that may change soon with the kind of performances he's had on the court lately and the overall productive season he's put together. The Nets have won four straight games - their longest winning streak in over two years - and Humphries has played a vital role.
In the Nets' overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Humphries had 20 rebounds and went 8-for-8 from the floor and scored 19 points as he outplayed Blake Griffin. The Clippers' power forward, who is almost a lock to capture the rookie of the year award, had 23 points but only nine rebounds. It marked the second time this season that Griffin failed to reach double figures off the boards matched up against Humphries. He pulled down a season-low three in their first matchup.
Humphries has put up a double-double in each of the Nets' last four wins, averaging 17 points and 17.3 rebounds per game.
Head coach Avery Johnson appreciates what his starting power forward has brought to the table. "When you look at our season, if it were to come to an end, you can look at Humphries as being a real nice success story," Johnson said. "Just the way he's come into his own ... If our record had been better, he would have been a guy that would garner a lot of votes for Most Improved Player this year. His attitude: very coachable. He's a fierce competitor and he's a good teammate."
Humphries has always been a solid rebounder, but he's taken it to another level this season, as he's third in the league behind Kevin Love and Dwight Howard in average rebounds per 48 minutes, with a mark of 17.8.
While he has the distinction of being Kardashian's boyfriend off the court, he also happens to be the best rebounding power forward in the New York metropolitan area.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
When the Thunder traded Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to the Boston Celtics in the deal to acquire Kendrick Perkins, they knew they were sacrificing offense for defense. And one of the big questions following the deal was if anybody could fill that scoring void. So far, James Harden is answering that question with a resounding yes.
Harden, the third overall pick in the 2009 draft, was averaging 10.5 points and shooting 41 percent from the floor prior to the big trade, but has put up 17.5 points per game and shot 50 percent in the nine games since then.
"Losing Jeff, you lose 15 points, you lose more rebounds, just more playmaking ability," Harden said. "I had to step my game up and just help the team."
Head coach Scott Brooks was counting on other players to pick up the offensive slack following the deal, but doesn't want to put the full burden on Harden.
"When we made the trade, I didn't go to James and say, 'James, we need six more points from you and you need to do it or else you're not going to play.' I didn't quite say it that way," Brooks said. "But we all understand he's a good player. ... We're finding opportunities for him to score other than a middle pick-and-roll. He's a terrific 3-point shooter. He's a backdoor player. He can come off screens."
Elton Brand and Andre Iguodola are familiar names to NBA fans, and second-year point guard Jrue Holiday is having a breakout season, but not much attention has come the way of Thaddeus Young and his contribution off the bench.
The fourth-year forward is averaging 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds and shooting 54 percent from the floor in his 26 minutes per game. During a recent stretch when the Sixers won eight of 10 games, Young put up 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while hitting on a phenomenal 64 percent of his shots.
Young is part of a balanced Philly attack that boasts six players who are averaging double figures in scoring.
No "Melo" continues to be no problem for the Denver Nuggets. They are 7-2 since dealing their star player, Carmelo Anthony, to the New York Knicks. The Nuggets even won for the first time in 13 tries in Phoenix with a 113-97 rout of the Suns last Thursday.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are 6-5 since Anthony and Chauncey Billups arrived in the Big Apple. New York's porous defense is a great cure for an ailing team. The Indiana Pacers ended a six-game losing streak on Sunday as they beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden without their leading scorer, Danny Granger, and No. 4 scorer, Mike Dunleavy. Despite playing short-handed, Indiana put up 106 points and shot a blistering 57 percent.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 9-1 since the All-Star break and give Andrew Bynum a big assist for them playing at a championship level again. The 23-year-old center has been a monster in the middle, both rebounding and protecting the paint. Bynum is averaging 12.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks over the last 10 games.
Shot blocking aside, Bynum is altering a lot of shots and having the opposition think twice before it comes down the lane.
Also, Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook became only the fifth player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds during his first three years in the league. Reaching the exclusive club in the Thunder's win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Anfernee Hardaway.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.