Mar 27, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after scoring during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets: The Next Step For James Harden

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Ric Bucher (Bleacher Report NBA columnist) made comments on Bleacher Report about James Harden and Dwight Howard potentially “scaring off” other stars away from Houston.

Both Harden and Howard were very snide about former Houston Rockets SF Chandler Parsons leaving to join the Dallas Mavericks after the Rockets opted not to match his contract. Howard was quoted, saying, “we won’t be affected at all” when a reporter asked him how he felt about Parsons leaving. Harden was quoted, saying, “Me and Dwight are the cornerstone players, and the rest of the guys are just role players or pieces that fit this team”.

While those comments may seem harsh, they are spot on in terms of fact. However, that is not the topic of discussion. The real question is can the Houston Rockets be a successful team with both Harden and Howard as the cornerstone players?

Bucher pointed out Harden’s inability to play defense in the first round of the playoffs and faulted a lot of the teams failure to go further on Harden. He also questioned the shooting guard’s leadership saying that you can not have a team where the best player is so young and not yet ready to lead.

Harden was a 6th man with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and once traded to the Rockets, went from a role player himself to “the guy” on a new team with new faces. In his 2nd season with the team they added Dwight Howard, and Harden again had to adjust to a new face and a new talent on the team.

Howard has his share of demons, but one thing you cannot question is his will to win or lead. Before Houston and before Los Angeles, Dwight was the premiere number one option on the Magic, and in 2009 led the team to winning the East, and eventually to the finals where they lost to the Lakers in 5.

Questioning Howard’s ability to lead is silly, he has proven that he can be a number one option night in and night out.

While James Harden is indeed young, this season he will not be judged by regular season success. He will not be judged by regular season numbers. He will be judged by what he accomplishes in May and possibly June. Harden is honing in on that time in every star player’s career where fans and media are tired of seeing you put up the numbers, but want to see you do the same thing in the playoffs.

Making the All-NBA First Team definitely shows Harden has the talent, but does he have the will and the leadership intangibles to do what is asked of him for an entire season AND playoffs?

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Tags: Houston Rockets James Harden

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