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The Big 3 – Week 3

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This past weekend SLiC traveled with The Big 3 to Birmingham Alabama to kick off week 3. Alabama is mostly known for their college football dominance, but also has some current and former NBA players from there.

We caught up with former UAB standout Robert Vaden, member of BIG3’s Aliens as well as Jamario Moon who played locally at Central-Coosa and on both D-League teams in Alabama.

Charles Barkley grew up a little outside of Birmingham in Leeds, Alabama. College teammates and current NBA players Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins and Eric Bledsoe both grew up in Alabama as well.

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Basketball

Ja Morant Nails First Career Game-Winner to Lead the Grizzlies Past the Hornets

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Ja Morant is the clear early-season favorite to win the Rookie of the Year this season, as Zion Williamson is still sidelined with a knee injury.

The No. 2 overall pick has been given the keys to the Memphis Grizzlies franchise in his first year and he has shown the elite playmaking ability that makes Morant one of the most exciting point guard prospects we have seen in some time.

On Wednesday night, Morant’s rookie highlight reel got a signature moment, as he hit his first career game-winning shot against the Charlotte Hornets.

Morant was efficient from the floor all night, converting 10 of his 15 field goal attempts for a team-high 23 points. Morant also dished 11 assists for his first career double-double.

Having just turned 20 years old in August, Morant has not even fully grown into his body. He is listed at 6’3″ and just 174 pounds.

Yet what Morant lacks in size, he makes up for in pure skills. The point guard features a silky smooth handle, giving him the ability to work around defenders with ease.

This is just the beginning of Morant’s career, so as he continues to learn the nuances of the game, he is only going to get better as a floor-general.

Still, in six games so far this month, Morant has eclipsed 20 points four times. Morant is leading all rookies with 18.3 points and 5.8 assists per game through 10 contests.

If he maintains that level of play, Morant is going to be a runaway candidate for the Rookie of the Year.

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James Harden Tells Stephen A. Smith That Rockets Will Win the Championship

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Ever since Mike D’Antoni took over as the Houston Rockets head coach back in 2016, they have been perennial contenders.

D’Antoni helped turn James Harden into one of the most unstoppable offensive forces the NBA has ever seen, with Harden eventually winning the MVP two years ago.

Still, the Rockets have failed to make it over the hump, with the Golden State Warriors eliminating them in each of the last two seasons.

In fact, the Warriors have taken the Rockets out of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

Now that Warriors-sized road block doesn’t appear to be in their way, as Golden State is in midst of a terrible season with injuries and the door is open for the Rockets to win it all.

Harden sat down with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to talk about the Rockets odds and he was very candid about Houston’s chances this year.

Houston’s biggest competition for a championship may be the two teams in Los Angeles, as the Clippers and the Lakers are both legitimate title-contenders.

The Rockets played the Clippers on Wednesday night and beat them behind a great 47-point performance by Harden.

Harden is once again playing at an MVP-level, looking just as good as he has been in each of the last two seasons.

With a younger and better sidekick in Russell Westbrook as opposed to Chris Paul, Harden has a great chance to lead the Rockets to their first championship since 1995.

It is going to take an incredible performance by Harden in the playoffs, but if he can match his regular season production, there is no playoff series he can’t win.

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Eric Gordon to Miss Six Weeks After Undergoing Knee Surgery

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With the addition of Russell Westbrook to play alongside James Harden, the Houston Rockets hope to once again by title contenders this season.

So far, the pairing has worked relatively well as Houston has jumped out to a 7-3 start through 10 games.

Now the Rockets will get their first true test of the season however, as they will have to deal with the loss of star sixth-man Eric Gordon.

Gordon is in his fourth year with the Rockets, after coming to Houston before the 2016-17 season. Gordon won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in his first season with the Rockets and has averaged 16.6 points since becoming Harden’s sidekick.

This offseason, Gordon signed a three-year, $54.5 million contract to remain in Houston long-term, with a non-guaranteed fourth year being added if he either makes an All-Star team or if the Rockets win a championship.

While he is a critical piece to what Houston does, Gordon has struggled with consistency this season and has not looked like himself. That is why this knee surgery was so crucial, as the Rockets hopes it returns Gordon to old form.

Gordon is averaging 10.9 points and is shooting just 28% from three-point range this season. If he gains more spring in his knee, maybe that will be enough to turn his season around.

In his absence, the Rockets will continue to rely on Harden and Westbrook to carry a majority of the playmaking burden.

Austin Rivers can also fill Gordon’s role as well, being a player capable of creating and making his own shot off the bench.

In the short-term, losing Gordon is really going to challenge the Rockets as they try to remain in the top-half of teams in the Western Conference.

Still, this knee procedure appears to be the right choice for Gordon and the Rockets, as they will need him at full strength to truly contend for a championship.

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