Who’s most to blame for James Harden-era Rockets not winning a title?

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The First Take crew recently debated why the Houston Rockets haven’t been able to win an NBA championship in the James Harden era.

While James Harden is leading the Houston Rockets to their eighth straight playoff appearance since he arrived, his legacy won’t make that leap to the next level until he wins an NBA championship.

In an age where many of the league’s superstars already have multiple titles, it’s tough to assess blame to only one person when it comes to why the Rockets’ superstar hasn’t been able to deliver the Larry O’Brien to Houston yet.

In a recent interview on Pomp Podcast, however, Rockets GM Daryl Morey seemed to give himself much of the blame. “I’ve let him down because I haven’t gotten him the right players to win a title,” said Morey.

The First Take crew of Max Kellerman, Jay Williams and Domonique Foxworth debated the merits of Morey’s claims in a search for the root cause of the Rockets’ championship drought. “Daryl Morey did a great job,” said Kellerman. “He has a team of shooters constructed around him and a coach that says ‘we’re gonna put the ball in your hands’ and [Harden has] been unable to get that done.”

After stating some specific examples of Harden going cold in the playoffs, Kellerman wrapped up his thoughts: “It’s not Daryl Morey’s fault. It’s not Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook or Clint Capela. It’s James Harden’s fault.”

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Foxworth fired back at Kellerman: “You should be better than this, Max. I agree it’s not Daryl Morey’s fault, but it’s absolutely not James Harden’s fault.” Foxworth seemed to have more of a level-headed answer that rightly put the blame on several different factors, as he continued:

“If the question is who’s to blame for Harden not winning a championship, you can go back to Sam Presti for trading him away from that superteam, you can go on to Chris Paul’s hamstring, you can go to how unlucky they were for the cap spike that allowed Kevin Durant to go to Golden State.”

Who Really is to Blame for the Houston Rockets Coming up Short?

It’s hard to find fault with any of Dominique’s points from the show. It’s obvious to me that Daryl Morey has given James plenty to work with over the years that included future Hall of Famers like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, so it’s certainly not on Morey.

It’s also hard to pin the majority of the blame on James for ultimately running out of gas in later playoff rounds. Still, Harden has had some cold nights when he really couldn’t afford to, so he definitely is not blameless. Mike D’Antoni, while he’s led some remarkable regular-season runs, also shares a good portion of the blame for his lack of in-series adjustments in recent years.

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In the end, it takes a well-rounded, disciplined team on both ends of the floor to win an NBA title. But even with all those elements, having some luck is necessary as well. The Rockets simply have not been fortunate in many instances, as Foxworth referred to.

The 1994 championship Rockets managed to win it all with just one Hall of Famer, which hadn’t been done for almost two decades.

While Mike D’Antoni isn’t exactly Rudy Tomjanovich and James Harden isn’t Hakeem Olajuwon, it shows that anything is possible in Space City.

When Harden and the Rockets return to the court, they will have had more than four months off. While it will be a tremendously difficult situation for everyone, there will be no excuses for running out of gas for Harden, Russell Westbrook or anyone else in the NBA.

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Come this year’s NBA playoffs, there will be plenty of blame to go around if the Rockets come up short again — but there will also be plenty of praise if H-Town finally reaches the pinnacle again.