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 while the ball was still in the air.
So when Harden arrived on the podium after the loss, his common 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 p.c from the sphere in that span.
“[We’re] simply not adequate,” Harden mentioned. “Clearly chemistry, talent-wise, simply all the things. 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 crew, clearly, championship crew, probably the greatest groups that we now have on this league.”
The massive shock got here when Harden, who has been on the middle 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 executed all the things that I can,” Harden mentioned. “I imply, this example is loopy. It is one thing that I do not suppose will be mounted. Thanks.”
And with that, he walked away.
Harden has given the Rockets rather a lot. Since becoming a member of the crew 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 prime scorers — he’s a whole offensive system.
However here is the factor: Harden hasn’t executed all the things that he can.
He did not show up for training camp on time. He flouted the league’s COVID-19 protocols by partying maskless in a number of cities. He compelled Stephen Silas to answer questions about his status slightly than his first marketing campaign as an NBA head coach. He is not near being in recreation form. He does not appear curious about trying to make a connection along with his teammates, particularly Rockets guard John Wall.
“I feel it has been somewhat rocky,” Wall said of his relationship with Harden. “Cannot lie about that. I do not suppose it has been the perfect it may very well be, to be trustworthy. That is all I actually might say.”
Houston does bear some duty on this scenario. The Rockets’ tradition has been, as a former staffer informed ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “No matter James desires.” Superstars at all times maintain a good quantity of energy and affect with their organizations, however Houston tipped the scales too far.
That is additionally an excellent motive why Harden should not be performing 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 just asking the 31-year-old to be an expert because it seeks an inexpensive commerce bundle.
If Harden had reported to coaching camp in a well timed trend and put his expertise on full show to start out the season, he would not have simply been doing the correct factor for the Rockets. Commerce suitors could have been extra keen to tug the set off after seeing a motivated Harden persistently drop 30-plus factors on his opponents. The asking worth would have gone up. He could 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 must get this ugly. Regardless of what Harden says, he might have executed extra.