The Defense of Harden by Houston Rockets fans
The team that had once held the hopes of the national fan base had fallen short and it was once again open season online against James Harden.
And yet, rather than turning on their star player, Rockets fans saw it as an opportunity to defend him even more ardently. From that point on, the identity of Rockets fans was not tied up in James Harden, but rather their defense of him.
This series of events warped the perspective of Rockets fans when it came to Harden. He could do no wrong. Even when Harden pushed the organization to move on from Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, a move that even at the time was much maligned, the Rockets faithful espoused that if it made Harden happy, it was worth it.
As Harden and Westbrook tried throughout the course of the 2019-20 season to make their diametrically opposed skill sets work, Rockets fans for the first time since Harden arrived, began to worry about the future.
In acquiring Westbrook, they had to give up two first round picks and two pick swaps, future draft capital that would be vital to improving the team further down the line. If this current iteration of the Rockets did not succeed, Houston was facing the reality of trying to work with two aging superstars whose play styles were less than complementary.
Ultimately, the season ended in disastrous fashion at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Going into the offseason, Rockets fans knew their team was in a precarious situation.
Ultimately, it did not take long for the first shoe to drop. In November, Russell Westbrook requested a trade. For many Rockets fans, there was no love lost, but the idea of Westbrook’s departure seemed to mean that Harden was not far behind him.
Shortly thereafter, Harden also made public that he wanted out of Houston.
Next: Harden's painful exit