The ultimate rating of Tuesday evening’s recreation between the Lakers and Rockets belied simply how totally Los Angeles dominated Houston.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. jumped out to a 35-14 benefit by the tip of the primary quarter and led by as many as 30 factors within the third on the way in which to a 117-100 victory. The Rockets sat on their bench in despair. The Lakers hopped out of their seats to have fun when James launched a nook 3-pointer and turned towards his bench whereas the ball was nonetheless within the air.
So when Harden arrived on the podium after the loss, his basic demeanor and tone did not shock anybody. Houston has misplaced 4 of its previous 5 video games (3-6 total, 14th within the Western Convention), and Harden is averaging simply 17.4 factors and taking pictures 37.8 % from the sector in that span.
“[We’re] simply not adequate,” Harden mentioned. “Clearly chemistry, talent-wise, simply all the pieces. And it was clear, like I mentioned, these previous few video games. They simply, from the start of the sport, they had been simply aggressive. Veteran staff, clearly, championship staff, top-of-the-line groups that we’ve on this league.”
The large shock got here when Harden, who has been on the heart of commerce experiences, rumors and hypothesis since November, adopted up these feedback by saying the quiet half out loud.
“I really like this metropolis. I actually have performed all the pieces that I can,” Harden mentioned. “I imply, this example is loopy. It is one thing that I do not suppose might be fastened. Thanks.”
And with that, he walked away.
Harden has given the Rockets lots. Since becoming a member of the staff in 2012, Harden has scored greater than 18,000 factors and led Houston to eight consecutive playoff berths, together with Western Convention finals appearances in 2015 and 2018. He’s an eight-time All-Star and former MVP. He is not simply one of many NBA’s high scorers — he’s a whole offensive system.
However this is the factor: Harden hasn’t performed all the pieces that he can.
He did not present up for coaching camp on time. He flouted the league’s COVID-19 protocols by partying maskless in a number of cities. He compelled Stephen Silas to reply questions on his standing quite than his first marketing campaign as an NBA head coach. He is not near being in recreation form. He would not appear fascinated about making an attempt to make a connection along with his teammates, particularly Rockets guard John Wall.
“I feel it has been slightly rocky,” Wall mentioned of his relationship with Harden. “Cannot lie about that. I do not suppose it has been one of the best it could possibly be, to be trustworthy. That is all I actually may say.”
Houston does bear some duty on this state of affairs. The Rockets’ tradition has been, as a former staffer advised ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “No matter James needs.” Superstars all the time maintain a good quantity of energy and affect with their organizations, however Houston tipped the scales too far.
That is additionally a very good motive why Harden should not be appearing this fashion. The Rockets have bent over backward to accommodate him, firing coach Kevin McHale and buying and selling away Dwight Howard and Chris Paul as a result of Harden reportedly pushed for these strikes. Houston is solely asking the 31-year-old to be an expert because it seeks an affordable commerce package deal.
If Harden had reported to coaching camp in a well timed style and put his expertise on full show to begin the season, he would not have simply been doing the fitting factor for the Rockets. Commerce suitors might have been extra keen to drag the set off after seeing a motivated Harden persistently drop 30-plus factors on his opponents. The asking worth would have gone up. He can be a lot nearer to his purpose of leaving Houston. He’s solely hurting himself.
Harden and the Rockets seem to have reached a breaking level, however issues did not have to finish this fashion. It did not should get this ugly. Regardless of what Harden says, he may have performed extra.