Houston Rockets guard James Harden made waves on Thursday while in the Philippines to participate in a charity event with the Philippine national team.
It was what Harden said about his own team that ruffled some feathers, while affirming the Rockets will be OK without departed Jeremy Lin, traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Chandler Parsons, who signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks that Houston opted not to match.
“Dwight Howard and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets,” Harden told The Philippine Star. “The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”
Statements like that tend to draw attention, particularly when coming from a player in Harden who has been underwhelming in each of his two postseasons with the Rockets, both of which ended with first-round losses.
Harden shot 39.1 percent overall and 34.1 percent from 3-point range in the Rockets’ six-game defeat at the hands of the favored Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013, averaging 26.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, two steals and a block in 40.5 minutes per game.
Houston had home-court advantage for the first round, however, in 2014, and still left the postseason after six games. That came after Harden, this time with Howard as his running mate, shot 37.6 percent overall and 29.6 percent from distance—on nine attempts per game, no less in a six-game loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Harden averaged 26.8 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and two steals in 43.8 minutes.
Those two playoff performances came after he was missing in action for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, when he shot 37.5 percent overall and 31.8 percent from deep and averaged only 12.4 points per game in a five-game loss to the Miami Heat.
Here’s the thing about what Harden said—he’s not wrong. Of course he and Howard are the cornerstones for the Rockets.
But what Harden did was to forget the most important rule of things that can go unsaid … don’t say them.
Harden’s comments did not go unnoticed up Interstate 45 in Dallas.
“That’s a pretty ridiculous statement if he meant that,” Parsons told ESPNDallas.com. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to go to Dallas, because I’m ready for that next step. I’m ready for a bigger role and I’m ready for more leadership.
“If anybody should understand that, it’s James, because he was in the same situation in Oklahoma City and then he got his chance to come to Houston and shine. I’m not real sure what that means.”
This is the second time Parsons has taken issue with comments from the Rockets this summer. He also acknowledged being “offended” by a comment from Houston general manager Daryl Morey.
“We feel strongly that turning down Chandler’s option gives us a better chance to win a championship than not turning it down,” Morey told Houston’s Sports Talk 790 AM the day after Parsons signed with the Mavericks. “It really comes down to the question of—Harden, Howard, Chandler, what chance does that group have of winning a championship?”
So if Parsons merely going from Houston to Dallas wasn’t going to ramp up the intensity of the rivalry between the Rockets and Mavs, now there’s the media blabber to up the stakes a little.
Perhaps someone should offer up some advice to the principals involved.
Rockets, stop talking about Parsons like he was a complete scrub. He played very well for you and y’all reportedly encouraged him to find a big deal so you could match it. Then you didn’t. Move on.
And Chandler Parsons, stop listening to every careless whisper coming out of Houston. You went and chased the money and you got it. So be happy in Dallas. Move on.
Even if it does make for great column fodder.