James Harden crystalized his feelings about the Rockets after a 117-100 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night, essentially telling reporters he was no longer interested in being part of the franchise.
It had been reported that Harden was unhappy, and that he could try to force a trade this year, but similar NBA disputes have historically played out to their conclusion mostly out of public sight with occasional leaks from agents serving as primary story advancers. When Anthony Davis pushed out of New Orleans in 2019, for example, there was an exit request made and then a whole bunch of awkward silence. Davis never sat in front of cameras and blasted his organization in blunt terms.
“(We’re) just not good enough,” Harden said. “I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
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As one can imagine, Harden’s teammates didn’t seem to appreciate his comments, which came on a night he went 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-6 from deep. Offseason arrival John Wall wasn’t subtle in his response.
“It’s only been nine games,” Wall said. “Come on man, you want to jump off a cliff after nine games? It’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”
After his time in Washington ended with more than a year away from basketball due to injury, Wall had hoped he could return to form on a Rockets team that had reached the playoffs eight straight years. Any hope of an upbeat campaign is likely gone now.
Many NBA fans were taken aback by Harden’s news conference. Some were upset, while others were more bemused.
James harden said this culture is awful, who’s responsible for this???? Me? Ah well never the less
— Trill Withers (@TylerIAm) January 13, 2021
Harden hasn’t been his typical superstar self this year, and his own struggles deserve some blame for Houston’s 3-6 record. He’s averaging 17.4 points per game through five contests this month. In his worst month last year, he averaged 28.2 points per game.
His conditioning has also been a source of criticism — he appears less nimble than in prior seasons — and his apparent weight gain has been used by some people to disparage his work ethic.
Earlier Tuesday night, the NBA TV pregame crew alluded to his changed appearance.
The 76ers and Nets have been discussed as potential trade destinations for Harden, but no deal has been reported close to happening at this point.