Houston Rockets: Kevin McHale is right about James Harden’s leadership

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 20: Head coach Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets watches as James Harden
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 20: Head coach Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets watches as James Harden /

The Houston Rockets season is underway but old wounds have been re-opened as a result of public comments made between James Harden and Kevin McHale.

The latest in the saga between two Houston Rockets figures — one present and one past — has caught some legs as the story continues to grow.  The official firing across bows between James Harden and Kevin McHale has now been made public and it could indicate that things were a bit more messy than we thought.

After being ousted just 11 games into the 2015-16 season, McHale had been the scapegoat for a lot of the failures of the Houston Rockets.  It was far from camaraderie in the locker room and there was even rumors that Harden aggressively campaigned for his dismissal.  I still admit that the day that I heard about the news back in mid-November 2016 that I was slightly shocked.  He had just won the NBA Coach of the Year the season previous and the team was just in rough patch that I thought they’d get out of.

But the silver lining was deeper, there was heavy disarray among our favorite Houston Rockets players and it started to seep out on the basketball court.  It seemed as if this was a team was divided rather than unified as one but still meandered their way to playoff contention with a 41-41 record and an embarrassing exit from the first-round by the Golden State Warriors.

Two years later, McHale — back in his posh TV gig with Turner Sports — has affirmed that Harden is no leader as he went on the record on the air in a episode of NBA TV’s debate-oriented show Open Court this past Friday.

Here’s his quote in context:

"I think it makes them a much better team because you had James Harden with the ball, he’s fantastic with the ball – the guys got phenomenal vision, James can see all the passes and do everything but James is not a leader. He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens. Look, if James tells you ‘Chuck, you’ve got to play better [defense]!’ Are you going to listen to him? You’re kidding me! I lived through it, everybody in the locker room [shook their head]."

Harden responded yesterday after the Houston Rockets’ annual practice open to the public with this:

"“He’s a clown. Honestly,” Harden said. “I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I tried to lead this team since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go out there and downplay my name, honestly, he’s never taught me anything to be a leader. But I’ve done a great job. The organization, my coaches. You can ask any of those guys how I worked extremely hard every single day to, obviously, be a better basketball player, but to be a leader as well, defensively as well.”"

He also tried to squash any rumors that he got McHale fired although that notion is still up for debate:

"“For sure, and I had nothing to do with it. I’m just here to do my job, compete at the highest level that I can.”"

After all what has been said, you know what?  McHale is ABSOLUTELY right about Harden.  He may have been butt-hurt about the comments but it’s true.  Where was Harden when we needed

More from House of Houston

him against the San Antonio Spurs in the semifinals?  You need that player that’s going to lift the team up when times are rough.  Nene was the guy who was bestowed with that role and when he got hurt, the heart and soul of the team went with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Harden but he isn’t the type of player to get in your face and correct any issues that may be going on.  Howard has even alluded to it in a piece with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins so you know there’s some levity to these allegations.  With all being said, he possesses those qualities but Chris Paul is going to help the situation.  I don’t want to discount all the incredible things he did as a player as our “points guard,” creating more scoring opportunities than any other player in a single season.

Next: Projecting the starting FIVE for 2017-18

Life here without Harden is certainly a vision that I don’t even want to imagine as the Houston Rockets are so much better with him.  But I certainly hoping that CP3 attributes can rub off on Harden as well to keep this ship running like a well-oiled machine.

We’ll have to see but I think CP3 will be the best thing to happen to Harden’s career.

Go Rockets.