Is Rockets’ James Harden being failed by those around him?

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

With James Harden trying to force a trade from the Houston Rockets by taking all of the wrong steps, it’s clear that Harden could benefit from receiving professional advice.

The Houston Rockets have found themselves in the news yet again, as the headline story throughout training camp has been the absence of franchise star James Harden. The Beard has made it known that he wants to join the Brooklyn Nets, to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to form a new Big Three, which has become extinct, with most of the league having formed star duos.

Harden is still under contract for two more seasons, which has limited his freedom as it pertains to his career. Harden and his representation could have prevented this standoff, as he would have been wise to follow suit of Durant and/or LeBron James by signing one-year deals, with an additional player option.

Now Harden finds himself in need of a favor, as he’s essentially asking the Rockets front office and ownership to handgift him a ticket to Brooklyn. But the problem for Harden is that such a move wouldn’t be best for the Rockets, which is what Rockets general manager Rafael Stone’s focus is solely centered around.

Harden has been used to getting everything he wants from the Rockets, ranging from the franchise’s decision to fire former coach Kevin McHale in 2015, who publicly feuded with Harden, to the franchise’s decision to add and remove players at his beckon call, so being denied is a first for him. Harden has decided to essentially boycott the Rockets, as he’s opted to enjoy the perks of stardom and spend time away from Houston, as opposed to joining his teammates in training camp.

The Rockets have reportedly been given no timetable for his return, while videos have surfaced showing him partying, and ignoring the league’s coronavirus protocol. But why is Harden making such decisions?

Surely someone in his camp would be imparting wisdom on the importance of following COVID protocol, and especially for someone who has a pre-existing condition, like Harden, who has asthma, right? Harden is going about this entirely wrong, as his behavior isn’t reflective of someone who deserves to have the franchise grant him a favor.

Is Houston Rockets’ James Harden being failed by those around him?

Harden has to realize that what he’s asking for would weaken the team, not to mention that he’s contractually obligated to abide by his contract. But even if he were to try and get the franchise to trade him to the Nets, the best chance he would have at that happening would be to play nice and play fair, meaning come to work and be a professional.

To put the situation in non-basketball terms, this would be similar to Harden approaching his employer about wanting to take paid time off, without having the necessary hours/days accrued. As one would expect in such a situation, the employer doesn’t have to grant the request, as the employee doesn’t have the ability to take the time off.

But would the employee simply decide not to show up for work? And if they did, would they be more inclined to have their request given or less inclined?

Surely Harden should know this, or someone within his camp should know that the best way to go about the situation would be to appear to be cooperative and appear to be willing to give this new coach and roster and opportunity to show him whether they can contend for a title or not. It would seem like the Houston Rockets would be much more willing to revisit Harden’s trade request at the trade deadline, with the belief that he played fair and tried to give it a run.

What we’ve instead seen is Harden avoiding the subject altogether, while his teammates (like P.J. Tucker and John Wall) and his new coach Stephen Silas are left to explain his actions and decisions. We’ve even heard more from Harden’s family about the situation than we’ve heard from him, with the narrative being that Harden is being held hostage by the Rockets.

But Harden is making at least $41 million in each of the next two seasons, which is quite a “hostage” considering how many are without work and unable to fend for their families due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. To put that annual number in perspective, Harden’s salary could employ a community of at least 1,000 people and the $50 million extension he turned down could provide employment to even more people, in theory.

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So why won’t Harden show up to work and at least be a consummate professional? The answer would seem to reflect a lack of professional advice around him and a player who has always had what he wants and feels he doesn’t have to honor his contract, which ties back to the first point.