Harden, Howard And the Continued Alienation of Rockets’ Teammates


Nov 30, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward Dwight Howard (12) react against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at the AT&T Center. Houston beat San Antonio 112-106. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Simonas Baranauskas of Lithuania Basket (@LithuaniaBasket) reported via Twitter that Donatas Motiejunas said of James Harden and Dwight Howard:

“Hi & bye, they even eat separately from the team – usually in some fast food place.”

Harden already said earlier in the offseason that the rest of the Rockets contingent outside of he and Howard are role players.

Howard said the loss of Chandler Parsons would not affect the team at all.

Both are allowing their egos to talk for them; and those egos are disproportionate to both accomplishments and talent.

There was a time when Dwight Howard was a teammate’s teammate. He and Jameer Nelson enjoyed a great friendship in Orlando that extended into the entire team. The locker room culture was great. Injecting Harden, it seems, has affected Dwight. He also devolved mentally after leaving Orlando, playing a subpar season on an injury decimated Los Angeles Lakers team. His confidence in his moves around the hole seem to be lacking. Howard was more decisive while playing in Orlando, and some of that explosiveness may return, but there is certainly no guarantee it will.

While he is playing better than he did in purple and gold, his level of play and stats are nothing like with the Magic, when he averaged nearly 23 points per game and led the league in rebounding three consecutive season. Dwight won the Defensive Player of the Year three times, as well, and it’s difficult to see him getting that honor again without a huge improvement.

Last season marked the first year since 2006-07, Dwight’s third year in the league, that he did not average at least two blocks per game. He also has fallen from over 14 rebounds a game to a humble 12.3 over the last two seasons. At age 28, Howard is in the midst of his prime, but that lower back injury seemed to zap his once pogo-stick-like legs.

Harden, meanwhile, has not even had the playoff successes of Howard. Both have reached the Finals once in their respective careers. Harden had a tough series against the Miami Heat in 2012 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden averaged 12.4 points per game that series, which the Thunder lost 4-1.

Howard also lost 4-1 with the Orlando Magic in 2009, though he had a good series considering the Lakers were able to throw both a healthy Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at No. 12.  The Magic did triumph over a LeBron James-led Cavaliers, but the Lakers ultimately had all the answers for the Magic’s attack, and Jameer Nelson’s return to the court hindered the team which had been performing well under the guidance of mid-season replacement Rafer Alston.

Both Harden and Howard have had their chances, come up empty—and still there is this entitlement.

. Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report asserted that this type of culture is not conducive to attracting free agents. If the superstars of the team are failing to lead it, doesn’t that make players hesitate to play with them?

Fromal pretty much nailed that on the head, and Zach Lowe of Grantland even went as far as to say that it likely had a lot to do with Chris Bosh’s decision to remain in Miami.

Ultimately, there are two things at work here: The team’s best two players are Harden and Howard, and neither is likely to be moved in the immediate future. Accordingly, there is going to have to be a shift in their mindsets both to maximize the talents of their teammates and to ultimately help lure a third star to Houston.

The news that D-Mo reported of eating separate meals and their terse relations with the team don’t bode well, though.