When Dwight Howard bolted from the Los Angeles Lakers to join up with James Harden in Houston, many thought it signaled the birth of a perennial NBA powerhouse. The possibility of Chris Bosh joining this summer had some talking titles. Bosh eventually stayed in Miami, but now talk emerges that Houston's two All-Stars were actually the reason Bosh decided against heading to the Rockets.
On Friday, Bleacher Report carried a damning... err... report that Dwight Howard and James Harden aren't exactly the stellar leaders the Rockets were hoping they would be when they snagged Howard in 2013. Reportedly, Howard and Harden don't even eat alongside their teammates, as Houston's Donatas Motiejunas noted to Simonas Baranauskas.
"Hi & bye," Baranauskas quoted Motiejunas in a tweet on Friday. "They even eat separately from the team. Usually in some fast food place."
Fast food, huh? Sounds like Dwight Howard, indeed.
Why is eating with one's teammates so important? As in other sports, much of the success of a basketball team hinges on the "chemistry" between its players. Communal meals, observers note, are one of the ways teams build that all-important chemistry. Players joke, learn about each other, and sometimes talk shop. If Howard and Harden aren't eating with the team, they're missing out on this valuable team-building time.
Worse still, the reasoning behind Howard and Harden not eating with the team appears to be rooted in... let's say... a less than stellar estimation of their teammates' importance.
Asked about the departure of Chandler Parsons from the Rockets this offseason, Howard told ESPN, "It won't affect us at all."
He added, "We have myself and James. We have the best center and the best two guard in the game on the same team. It's on us."
Ouch. Harden was equally impolitic when asked about Parsons leaving.
"Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets," he told The Philippine Star. "The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team."
Like saying Dwight Howard's "I'm a big kid" persona is grating and derivative of Shaq, Howard and Harden's comments on departing Rockets players are true, but also the sort of thing you just don't say. It hurts team chemistry and -- just as bad -- it might scare away potential free agents. That appears to be just what happened with Chris Bosh.
After LeBron blew up the Miami Heat's Big Three by returning to Cleveland, many expected that Chris Bosh -- widely acknowledged as the Heat's "Ringo" -- would head home to Houston to form another Big Three with Howard and Harden. Apparently, though, the sub-ideal team culture in Houston -- epitomized by Harden and Howard's "leadership" -- soured Bosh on the possibility.
Bleacher Report points to a Grantland article from mid-July, one in which Harden and Howard don't come off looking too pretty. The takeaway:
"[Bosh is] super-smart, and he just spent four years playing with two like-minded stars... there is an undercurrent around the league that Harden and Howard don't represent the most appealing duo of teammates for any star who has lived within ultraserious professionalism."
Ouch, but that estimation isn't totally out of the blue. Consider how quickly Howard bolted to Houston after an embarrassing season with the Los Angeles Lakers. That's a team under the iron fist of Kobe Bryant, who is widely known to be the most professional-bordering-on-monomaniacal player in the league.
So it looks like Bosh simply didn't want to deal with the team chemistry, or lack thereof, in Houston. That's a bummer for the Rockets, who play in the incredibly deep Western Conference. Adding Bosh's championship experience to Howard and Harden's talent would certainly have helped Houston's squad out in that tough conference, and they definitely need help. The Rockets didn't even make it out of the first found of the Playoffs this year, losing to the Portland Trailblazers in six, even with "the best center and the best two guards in the game."
[Lead image via BlackSportsOnline]