Kevin McHale is gone, and now basketball fans turn their gaze to another culprit behind Houston’s topsy-turvy — they lost three straight, won four straight, then dropped four straight — season: James Harden. Harden, in case you forgot, was winning Player of the Week honors after the Rockets rebounded from their 0-and-3 start and went 4-0 just a week ago. Things turned just as quickly in the other direction after another 0-and-3 week.
Yes, Harden can be a sieve on defense, but to just call him a bad defender, or someone who doesn’t try or hustle, is terrifically shortsighted, and lends credence to Houston conspiracy theorists who are convinced everyone is out to malign their analytic-heavy approach. Despite the fact three-pointers, shots at the rim and free throws really are efficient, the Rockets have looked uninspired, and now three independent sources tell Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt (you know it’s big when they team up) of USA Today that the reported players-only meeting that took place the night before McHale was canned featured a lot of grousing about the disinterested way James Harden can be with his Rockets teammates. His play on the court was also discussed, so at least we know it wasn’t just a bunch of commentary on Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Crappy jokes aside, here’s what was reported:
While players tried to keep details of the meeting private, two themes emerged, three people told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. Harden’s play and aloofness have frustrated teammates, and McHale took the brunt of the blame for the team’s play. Practices were not resulting in improved play in games
A couple of course’s and one other thing to note on the above pull-quote:
- Just the other day we were sharing the long feature ESPN published about the tight-lipped players-only meetings. Seems the covert part of these meetings has been lost these days [insert curmudgeonly Chuck missive, here].
- Of course an aloof teammate can be frustrating.
- Of course the coach took the brunt of the blame. It was a players-only meeting.