If James Harden is going to make his first All-Star game this year in his debut season with Houston, he'll likely have to be voted in as a reserve by the Western Conference coaches.
And the Rockets guard could have at least one vote from his former coach.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said following his team's second victory this season against the Rockets that Harden is worthy of an All-Star selection.
“James was really good for us,” Brooks said. “He's a terrific player. He's an All-Star player. He's definitely at that level, and he's going to be that way for many, many, many years. He still has improvement to make in his game and he's really good now.
Fans select the starters for the All-Star game by voting for two guards and three frontcourt players. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Clippers guard Chris Paul are the top two vote-getters among West guards and figure to remain there.
Harden is competing with Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, a virtual lock to be named a reserve by the coaches, Spurs guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and Golden State's Stephen Curry.
THUNDER PERFECT IN NEW YEAR'S EVE GAMES
Since arriving in Oklahoma City, the Thunder has hosted a game on New Year's Eve every year.
And the Thunder is 4-0 in those games.
Oklahoma City will look to extend its perfect streak on Monday night against the Phoenix Suns. In last year's New Year's Eve game, the Thunder beat the Suns 107-97.
OKC has won by an average margin of 6.8 points in its four New Year's Eve games. Before last season, the Thunder defeated Atlanta by nine in 2010, Utah by one in 2009 and Golden State by seven in 2008.
BALANCED SCORING A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS FOR OKC
In Saturday's 124-94 win over the Rockets, the Thunder had five players score at least 10 points. Oklahoma City is now 12-0 when that happens.
“That means everybody's involved,” said Kevin Martin, “and we're flowing as a team and not just as individuals.”
Houston coach Kevin McHale on whether fatigue was a factor in his team's 30-point loss to the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back — “We aren't laying brick in 110 degree weather. We're just playing basketball. Since everybody has played basketball when they've been a little tired, you've just got to go out and push through it,”
By Darnell Mayberry