As the split between James Harden and the Houston Rockets becomes more likely, a new story from Tim McMahon at ESPN highlights all the ways the franchise has been “complicit” in making Harden the “boss of the organization.”
Now, with Harden on the outs, the Rockets’ dysfunction and the way they have seemingly kowtowed to Harden is coming back to bite them.
McMahon describes how Harden would use the threat of a trade demand to get what he wanted and then leverage that control into complete manipulation of the team’s schedule and style during the season. This grated especially on Russell Westbrook, who has long led teammates through accountability and companionship rather than unearned superiority.
More from the ESPN story:
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. 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 and others.
“Nothing ever starts on time,” a former Rockets staffer said. “The plane is always late. The bus is never on time. … It’s just an organized AAU team.”
The Rockets’ culture was not only compromised by Harden often being tardy or disorganized, but also his desire to make the Rockets’ schedule a rolling party across the country. Harden, according to this report, would impose an extra night or two onto Houston’s travel if that allowed the team to spend more time in a place like Phoenix or Los Angeles. If they were within a quick trip of Las Vegas, Harden would take a private flight to party there as well, the report shows.
Altogether, it certainly paints a picture of a place that a hard worker like Westbrook or Chris Paul could have struggled, and helps show why during several big moments along this franchise’s recent history, they have appeared unfocused.