Pro No.1: Culture change
Team culture is one of the few unmeasurable facets of an NBA game. The Heat, based upon their roster, had no business making the finals but their organizational culture allowed them to punch above their weight.
As fantastic as Harden has been in Houston it seems the culture that he necessitates is not of championship quality. Locker rooms take the lead from their best players and Harden seems to lack the level of accountability and leadership that is the difference between making the finals and watching it from home.
For too long the Rockets have enabled Harden’s lackadaisical leadership style and it has led to the exits of both Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The Rockets should look at what happened with the Clippers this past season if they need any more convincing.
The Clippers had one of the most talented rosters in the league but were undone by their two star players who lacked real leadership qualities. The playoff collapse from the Clippers was all too reminiscent of some of Houston’s playoff debacles with Harden in town.
Your best player sets the tone for everyone and it needs to be there at every practice, shootaround, and off day. Harden is a far better player than Jimmy Butler but does his attitude and leadership make his teams better?
The Rockets won’t win more games without Harden but they’ll have a hard time playing above their talent level with him in town. The greatest players in history elevate their rosters through their leadership. After eight years in Houston, it doesn’t look like Harden is that type of player.