The relationship between James Harden and the Houston Rockets appears to be on thin ice.
Although he finally joined the team this past week and played in his first game, it’s clear that Harden has not shifted from his offseason position of wanting to be traded. The Rockets, meanwhile, remain steadfast in their insistence that they will not give him away for nothing.
This week, The Athletic NBA insider Sam Amick spoke with several execs around the league regarding what the perception of Harden truly is right now.
“It just f**** up your whole organization,” one high-ranking official from a team that considered trading for Harden said.
Another agreed with that general sentiment.
“Harden is a terrific scorer, but not a champion,” he said. “He isn’t a two-way player and (he’s) hard to play with. …He is so used to getting his own way, I think there are concerns he can negatively affect a team’s culture.”
The issues surrounding Harden’s attitude and entitlement have been an ongoing theme.
This past week, ESPN NBA insider Tim MacMahon published a story in which he specifically detailed instances where Harden displayed very spoiled behavior. The sort of conduct that could be extremely detrimental if it repeated in different locker rooms.
“If the Rockets had two or three days between games, it was a good bet Harden would call for an off day and charter a private jet to party in Las Vegas or another city,” MacMahon wrote. “He always gets an excused absence from the first practice after the All-Star break for the same reason.”
Harden’s attitude and the Rockets being complicit in enabling it rubbed several team stars the wrong way.
“One of [Chris] Paul’s biggest beefs, sources said, was that Harden basically opted not to participate in the Rockets’ offense when the ball wasn’t in his hands, sometimes barely stepping over half court while spectating when Paul had the ball,” MacMahon wrote.
“Harden quickly tired of Paul barking about his concerns, which included lobbying coach Mike D’Antoni to implement more structure and movement in an offensive system that revolved around Harden’s isolations.”
Russell Westbrook was similarly irked with some of Harden’s behavior.
“Houston’s casual culture appalled Westbrook. In Oklahoma City, despite the fact that he enjoyed the same sort of superstar privileges as Harden has had in Houston, the Thunder operated with the discipline of a military unit under Westbrook’s watch,” MacMahon continued.
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 17, 2020
“The Rockets were a stark contrast, especially last season under D’Antoni, who was never known as a disciplinarian and who was a lame duck in the last year of his contract after extension negotiations infamously fizzled twice over the summer. Westbrook didn’t tolerate tardiness.
“With the Rockets, scheduled departure times were treated as mere suggestions by Harden… On one occasion in the Florida bubble, Harden waited to get his daily COVID-19 testing until just before the Rockets’ film session was scheduled to start. When he wasn’t on time, Westbrook barked, ‘Start the film! Start without him!’ D’Antoni explained that they’d just have to start over when Harden arrived, which didn’t do much to calm Westbrook.”
Harden is a tremendously talented player, but he comes with a lot of baggage. As such, it’s not all that surprising that certain execs around the league are under the impression that he is more trouble than he’s worth.