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igley). But Chapman changes how everyone watches the game. After he struck out M

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  1. q123

    HOUSTON -- James Harden was second in the NBA with 29 points per game last season and his 7.5 rebounds were a career high.Still, it was a disappointing year for Harden and the Houston Rockets, who were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by Golden State, and the star knew he had to adjust things to take the team farther this year.Last year was frustrating, numbers individually was pretty solid, but just the love and excitement wasnt there, he said. So I had to look in the mirror this summer and realize that I got to change and I got to get back to how I was.To that end, he refocused this offseason and put an emphasis on becoming a better leader. He organized players-only training and outings in both Miami and Las Vegas in an attempt to create cohesiveness within the group before camp.Just getting to know somebody and hanging out ... it was really good, he said. Thats going to carry over onto the court.The way his embraced his role as the undisputed leader of this team has impressed everyone in the organization, starting with owner Leslie Alexander.It shows that James wants to win very badly, Alexander said. Hes a winning player ... James is one of the top three or four players weve ever had here and he wants to win as much as (Hakeem) Olajuwon and (Clyde) Drexler and everybody else.Trevor Ariza is entering his 13th NBA season, but had the excitement of a rookie on Friday as he talked about how much better things feel entering this season than they did last year. It was a season that saw coach Kevin McHale fired after just 11 games and the Rockets take a step back after reaching the Western Conference finals in 2015.I think just last season was frustrating for everybody because we just couldnt figure it out together, Ariza said. I dont even know how to explain. It was just a weird, weird, weird year.So how have things changed now?The vibe has just been totally different, Ariza said. Everybody is excited to show what theyve worked on and excited just to be around each other.These positive-attitude Rockets enter the season with new coach Mike DAntoni and without eight-time All-Star center Dwight Howard, who signed with Atlanta in the offseason. A big question for this team will be who will step in to make up for Howards absence.Their top options are Clint Capela, a third-year player who saw limited action the past two seasons as Howards backup, and Nene, who played 53 games for Washington last year before joining Houston in the offseason.General manager Daryl Morey raved about Capelas improvement in his first year, but knows hell have to do more this season if the Rockets hope to be a force in the Western Conference.Clint is going to have to take a big step forward and its not an easy step, Morey said. To go from playing 15-20 minutes against often not the starting center to playing 25-plus minutes against front-line guys, thats a big step forward. Its more physical. It takes a big toll on your body to do that night-in and night-out.Along with Nene, the Rockets also added outside shooters Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon this offseason. Houston expects the addition of those two to fill a void that this team has had in recent years.We were able to upgrade our shooting ... for the style we want to play, Morey said. I dont feel like we had enough shooting (before). We do have that.Everyone is saying the right things and Morey believes he made the upgrades necessary for the team to succeed in DAntonis system. But with all the improvements other teams made in the West, its hard to know what to expect from this team.Alexander was confident, yet tempered when asked about his expectations.I think well win more games than people anticipate, he said. But when the season rolls on well see how well we do. Cheap NFL Jerseys China. -- Aldon Smith believes he is on the path to being sober for good. Cheap NFL Jerseys. After a lengthy wait, persistent rain finally forced the postponement of the Nationals game against the Miami Marlins on Saturday night. The teams, and a few thousand fans, waited nearly four hours from the 7:05 scheduled start time before an announcement was made shortly before 11 p. There are some early surprises in the race for the Hart Trophy, but two of the contenders are the leagues biggest stars over the past decade. There are many more players in contention for the awards than just the three that Ive named, and a good or bad week can easily alter the landscape, but through the first 20 or so games of the NHL season, this is how the awards races look to me. Wholesale NFL Jerseys. The third-ranked Ivanovic, who won the event in 2008 and 10, served five aces and broke Wickmayer, also a former winner in 2009, five times. "The result looked easier than it really was," Ivanovic said. Cheap Soccer Jerseys. The (11-11-4) Jets are seventh in the Central Division with 26 points. Fifth place Dallas and sixth-seeded Nashville also have 26 points, but the Stars have three games in hand on Winnipeg while Nashville has two. Chicago is a city of mythic conflicts: Mayor Richard J. Daley and his cops against long-haired hippie protesters in 1968, Eliot Ness Untouchables vs. Al Capones Outfit during Prohibition, and Cubs fans vs. Sox fans in the Crosstown Classic every summer.Before the installation of interleague play in 1997, the Cubs and Sox had occasional exhibition games to raise money for charity (I saw Michael Jordan play outfield at Wrigley in 1994). The teams also played for keeps once, the 1906 World Series, where the Hitless Wonders defeated the 116-win Cubs 4 games to 2. For decades, the teams staged a postseason City Series that let owners and players make a few more dollars before the offseason. Chicago baseball scribe Ring Lardner dubbed this the City Serious, and fans do indeed take it seriously. Perhaps too seriously, with so many Chicago myths in play.Cubs fans are yuppies, White Sox fans blue collar. Cubs fans dont really watch the game, Sox fans do. Cubs fans foolishly support bad teams, Sox fans only show up when theyre winning. The media loves the Cubs and ignores the Sox.Well, whatever grains of truth these myths might have, the media do not ignore the Cubs-Sox series, and fans flock to it.But it might surprise people to learn that the games when the Cubs host the White Sox are not the most in demand among my season ticket group in Section 416.After going to a few games in the first few years, I generally avoid Sox-Cubs games, the Country Doctor says. I have nothing against the White Sox, but their fans seem to have an inferiority complex that tends to make them a tad aggressive. The Big Bun, though he came out Thursday, has a similarly dim view of the matchup. The atmosphere may have changed over the years, he says, but back when I did go to this series it was a bunch of drunks -- on both sides --?who just wanted to talk smack to each other.Azz puts a positive spin on this problem, saying, Ive never seen any evidence in either park that one side is more serious about baseball. This is Chicago; what we take seriously is drinking, and in that regard both sides are champions.Cubs fans might have been driven to the bottle by consecutive losses at the Cell on Monday and Tuesday. (White Sox ownership and stadium workerrs mightve just been driven to exhaustion, as the two crowds of 39,510 and 39,553 were the Cells biggest gates of the year, even exceeding the 38,019 who showed up for Opening Days snowstorm.dddddddddddd Cubs fans travel, especially south of Madison Street.But the buzz on the North Side on Wednesday and Thursday was all about Aroldis Chapman, or rather the myth of Aroldis Chapman.And the myth became reality as he mopped up in Wednesdays 8-1 blowout and saved the 3-1 pitchers duel for John Lackey on Thursday.Most fans I talked with at Nisei pregame and later at the park were not happy with Chapmans history of domestic violence, and expressed unease with the win-at-all-cost attitude the move represents.At the same time, if Chapmans triple-digit fastball can finally bring a championship to Wrigley, the cynic in me suspects all will be forgiven. Sports fans are a forgiving lot, especially when distracted by freakish excellence.And Chapmans fastball? Freakishly excellent.When he was still with the Reds, I saw him throw a pitch through the screen behind home plate. It hit a seat with a crack like a gunshot. The guy in the adjacent seat grabbed the ball and held it up like a champ; if hed been one seat over, that pitch wouldve shattered his sternum.Cubs-Sox matchups always feel odd, with intense cheering at every play (there were lots of Sox fans at Wrigley). But Chapman changes how everyone watches the game. After he struck out Melky Cabrera to end the eighth (and a threat to erase the Cubs narrow lead) seatmate Rich pointed out that Chapman makes the game feel like a tennis match. When he pitches, all the fans first look to the plate, and then turn in unison, like 41,157 synchronized bobble-head dolls, to check the left-field videoboard to see how fast the pitch was thrown.We were rewarded with 100, 101, 102 and 103 mph fastballs, not to mention 91 mph sliders.How Chapmans debut games, which pushed the Sox two games below .500 and the Cubs to 21-over, will be remembered depends on how the rest of the season plays out. But at this stage, Cubs fans are thinking about creating some new myths. Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '

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