The soap opera known as the 2021 Houston Rockets took another dramatic turn when disgruntled star James Harden (looking well-fed, per usual) voiced his frustration Tuesday night, describing his deteriorating relationship with the team as unsalvageable.
Harden has put Houston—and particularly rookie coach Stephen Silas—through the ringer this year, blowing off training camp, continuing to frequent strip clubs (in blatant violation of the league’s COVID protocols) and taking a hatchet to team chemistry with his defiant behavior at practice, all while sinking his trade value with poor play and nonexistent conditioning. With Harden holding the Rockets hostage, team morale in Houston has never been lower, as newcomer John Wall would attest to.
“We look like an AAU team in that it’s just one person from Maryland, one person from North Carolina, one person from South Carolina, one person from L.A. and we just meet up every weekend,” said Wall in the aftermath of Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers, the Rockets’ fourth defeat in five games. Among Western Conference teams, only the 3-7 Timberwolves hold a worse record than Houston (3-6) in the early going. “When you have certain guys in the mix who don't want to buy in all as one it's going to be hard to do anything special, to do anything good as a basketball team.”
Wall’s initial enthusiasm upon joining Houston this offseason has quickly evaporated with the Rockets playing an uninspired brand of hero ball. When asked of his uncomfortable partnership with Harden, Wall admitted it’s been a work in progress. “It’s been a little rocky, can’t lie about that,” the five-time All-Star said in his post-game remarks Tuesday night. “I don't think it's been the best it could be, to be honest.”
Without buy-in from Harden, whose swollen ego was born from years of entitlement under enabling coach Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets could be doomed to a season of mediocrity, which is not what Wall or anyone else in Houston signed up for. Between Harden’s shenanigans and Deshaun Watson’s growing resentment toward the Texans, a dark cloud appears to be gathering over the Houston sports landscape. Better have an umbrella handy.