Dwight Howard and James Harden are in a class of their own, social class that is. The elite players have given themselves elitist titles on the Houston Rockets, refusing to mingle with the rest of their teammates. These claims were confirmed by Rockets’ teammate Donatas Motiejunas on Friday, who told Lithuania Basketball that the two All-Stars’ interaction with the team was based on greetings and farewells, noting that they ate separately from the rest of the team.
The leadership credibility of Houston’s two best players takes a huge blow, more so than when Howard looked more like Grumpy Cat than a basketball player while with the L.A. Lakers. In an interview in the Philippines last month, Harden told reporters that he and Howard were the “cornerstones” of their team. Hard to doubt that point, but he went on to say that everyone else on the Rockets were “role players or pieces that complete (their) team,” throwing them under the bus as expendables.
Days earlier, Howard dismissed former teammate Chandler Parsons going to the division rival Dallas Mavericks, saying the move “won’t affect (the Rockets) at all.” To sum up the rest of what Howard said goes along with Harden’s statement, pretty much claiming the two All-Stars were the only importance to the team.
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Yes the Rockets were able to win 54 games and clinch the fourth spot in the playoffs; yes Howard and Harden were one and two in just about every statistical category on the team, but they eventually were bested in the postseason by the Portland Trailblazers, barely even squeaking by in their two playoff wins. Basketball is a team sport, it’s not like track, tennis or golf; even a car needs more than gas and a motor to operate. It’s cliché to say “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” but this kind of individuality does not result in championship rings.
Similar all-about-me accusations were made of Kobe Bryant during the Lakers’ 2004-2005 season, where the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in their recent history, prompting Bryant to demand a trade. The trade never came and Kobe stayed with the only NBA team he ever played for, and as the years went on TV reporters would report on how Bryant was turning his attitude around and being more of a team-oriented player and attending team lunches. He went on to win the 2008 MVP award and two additional NBA championships.
Individuals have rarely been able to win championships on their own, even LeBron James needed the help of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to win his first two. An act as simple as eating with your teammates builds chemistry, chemistry builds good teams; look at the 2004 Pistons and the Spurs dynasty as an example. Grantland blames the personalities of Howard and Harden for not being able to land any big name free agents in the offseason; with these new claims coming to light, it’s a sensible statement.