#1 His behavior and commitment to the team
James Harden’s antics that occurred prior to the start of the season has raised questions of whether or not Harden’s engagement with teammates and coaching staff should be a concern. However, during preseason games, Harden looked to be involved with his teammates and communicative with them during timeouts.
Harden’s good on-court behavior does not diminish stories of his involvement in skirmishes with teammates and him breaking league protocols when he attended a gathering at a club. Harden has been sending mixed signals to NBA fans and front offices over his commitment and this could ultimately deter teams from making a trade for him.
Harden has become a polarizing figure in the NBA over the last several years. Tim MacMahon’s recent publication of what the Houston Rockets culture was like during the Harden era has made teams aware of the impact he can have on their team dynamic and structure.
In the article, unnamed sources discussed how the team had revolved around him. Harden often expressed to management his frustration with coming up short in the playoffs which led to roster changes that saw the team move on from Dwight Howard and trade away Chris Paul.
The Paul trade was particularly damaging to the franchise’s long term prospects. The deal saw Russell Westbrook come in, who only lasted a season before he too was shipped out, and Houston had to send Paul, two first-round picks and two first-round pick swaps back to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Trade partners who are interested in James Harden will have to embrace the risk of bringing in a strong voice like his into their locker room. His behavior and commitment at the start of the season don’t seem to be an issue on the court after their first game against the Portland Trailblazers.
His absurd 44 points and 17 assists per game was a memorable performance, even though the team fell short of a victory in a thrilling overtime game. The final play of the game ended on a turnover by Harden, but it was evident that the disgruntled star still cares about winning as he displayed his frustration on a miscommunication with Rockets forward, P.J. Tucker.
Harden’s commitment to winning is unwavering, even if he would prefer to channel that energy elsewhere. Harden’s mood could change during the season as the last couple of weeks leading up to the regular season had been a roller coaster for the Houston Rockets.
Harden’s days of wearing red and white could be coming to an end soon. However, the Rockets front office will decide on whether or not his departure will occur sooner or later, but expect them to pounce when his value is at its highest.