Okay, so let’s all get caught up on this beef between James Harden and former Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.
McHale, who coached Harden for three seasons and change, doesn’t think the runner-up MVP is a leader. Harden, by comparison, disagrees.
Here’s what McHale initially said about Harden during an NBA TV panel, per ESPN.com:
“James can see all the passes and do everything, but James is not a leader,” McHale said as part of a panel on NBA TV. “He tried being a leader last year, tried doing all that stuff. I think Chris Paul is going to help him just kind of get back into just being able to hoop and play and stuff like that.
But on every team, you have to have a voice. On every team, you have to have somebody that when they say something, people listen. Like if James tells you, ‘You’ve got to play better D,’ are you going to listen to him? Like you’ve gotta be kidding me. I lived through it. Believe me, everybody in the locker room did this,” McHale said, putting his head down with his hand on his forehead. “Every time he mentioned defense, everybody would put their head down.”
Asked about these sentiments, Harden did not mince words, per the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen:
James Harden on Kevin McHale saying he is no leader. "He's a clown."
Here's more: pic.twitter.com/PQQjugawHB
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) October 7, 2017
This is fine.
No, really, it is. The Rockets would have an issue on their hands if McHale was still manning the team and saying these things, but he’s not. And many of Harden’s running mates from the squads that would take issue to him mentioning defense are gone. There will be no long-term ill-effects in the locker room now.
We’d be remiss, though, not to acknowledge that McHale has a point. Harden can be slightly better on defense during certain games, but for the most part, he’s a demonstrative minus on that end. So if he, of all people, starts lecturing others on the importance of working your ass off defensively, well, some eyes are bound to roll.
Perhaps it should be different. If the pecking order in Houston is clear, and everyone’s role defined, Harden can say whatever he wants. He carries his weight on the offensive end, because that’s his primary job. If a defensive specialist is slow-footing his duties, then Harden, as the team’s best player, should absolutely be able to say something without sounding too hypocritical.