It looks as if there’s some real tension building between Houston Rockets star guard James Harden and ex-coach Kevin McHale.
Harden seemed quite offended after McHale made comments regarding his leadership qualities during the week. And on Saturday, the player hit back, referring to his former coach as “a clown.”
The pair worked together for three years in Houston, before McHale was fired in 2015, and appeared to have a good relationship. Following these new developments, though, things have definitely gotten a bit frosty.
Speaking to journalists on Saturday, Harden claimed that he did everything McHale had asked him to do while he was in charge at Houston. He insisted that the 59-year-old never taught him anything and that he needed to stand up for himself in the wake of his name being “downplayed.”
“He’s a clown. Honestly. I did anything and everything he asked me to do.”
“Honestly, he’s never taught me anything… to be a leader,” Harden claimed in quotes taken via CBS Sports. “But I’ve done a great job. The organization, my coaches, you can ask any of those guys how I’ve worked extremely hard every single day to better… obviously be a basketball player, but be a leader as well. There’s different types of leaders as well.
“To go on air and downplay my name like that, it shows his character. I usually don’t go back and forth on social media with anybody, or interviews, but I need to stand up for myself, and there it is. Just don’t go and do that. It shows the type of person he is.”
McHale, while being critical of the former Oklahoma City Thunder guard, had nice things to say about him as well. Yet he pointed out that Harden is not someone who would command the respect of his teammates.
With Chris Paul now in Houston, following a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hall of Famer reckons that the team’s new acquisition will certainly help out in that regard.
“I think it makes them a much better team because you had James Harden with the ball, he’s fantastic with the ball – the guys got phenomenal vision, James can see all the passes and do everything but James is not a leader.
“He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens.
“Look, if James tells you ‘Chuck, you’ve got to play better [defense]!’ Are you going to listen to him? You’re kidding me! I lived through it, everybody in the locker room [shook their head].”
Asked by a reporter if he thought McHale was bitter, Harden agreed. However, he made it clear that he had nothing to do with how McHale feels. He said he thinks that the former head coach is being two-faced over his qualities as a player, having told him how good he was during their time together and coming out to describe him in such a manner only a few years later.
“Sure,” Harden replied to the question. “And I had nothing to do with it. You know I’m just here to do my job, compete at the highest level I can.
“But when you’re hearing, and you’re face to face, and you’re telling me one thing, ‘how great of a player you were,’ how lucky that he’s a part of this process, and then you go back a few years later and basically say the opposite, it shows your character, shows who you really are, and I’m not that type of person.
“I don’t operate that way. I don’t say things to somebody behind their back, or tell them one thing and then go on air and say another thing.”
Harden, who has been in Houston since 2012, led the NBA in assists last season with an average of 11.2 assists per game, while finishing with a scoring average of 29.1 points per game. Only Russell Westbrook, the regular season MVP, averaged more, hitting 31.6 points per game.
The Rockets are certainly a huge contender for top spot in the Western conference now that they’ve managed to bring Paul in. And with the likes of Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza still around, as well as the supremely talented Harden of course, they could cause all sorts of problems for the reigning Golden State Warriors.
As for the seemingly growing feud between Harden and McHale, its’s probably something they will have to work out man to man.
[Featured Image by Scott Halleran/Getty Images]