Sorry, Dwight Howard, but it’s clear that James Harden and the Houston Rockets felt that you were better at destroying team chemistry than adding to it. After waving farewell, the Beard and his company are in high spirits for next year.
James Harden was unapologetically expressive about how the Houston Rockets will show improved chemistry this upcoming season. According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Harden said last season’s mentality is “not even close” to this year’s as the Rockets prepare for training camp.
“We’ve [sic] doing something I haven’t since I’ve been here in Houston. Just trying to shake things up, just trying to make sure we really know each other in and out on and off the court. I think that will translate to a better team,” elaborated Harden. Moving past all the drama between Dwight Howard and Houston’s organization, the team feels rather refreshed after severely underperforming last year.
“On any team, in any sport, if you don’t have the entire team on one page, the entire team having one goal, you’re not going to be successful. That’s what we’re trying to build here in Houston. We have several new guys we want them to come and feel like this is a great group and we’re going to build this together.”
For Houston to return to relevancy, especially in a loaded Western Conference, Harden needs to be the top dog. Undisputed, point blank, period. Dwight Howard has consistently butted heads with teammates who were labeled the first option (Kobe Byrant called him soft), and 2015-16 was no different. However, Howard was healthy for nearly the entire year, and the Rockets were expected to contend for a championship–right alongside San Antonio and Golden State–because their one-two punch would dominate.
Instead, they floundered. The 56-win team who lost in the Western Conference Finals was suddenly 41-41 and barely snuck into the playoffs; oddly enough, Howard appeared in just 41 games in 2014-15.
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Now, this isn’t entirely Howard’s fault. More was going on than just “beef” between Howard and Harden, and the Rockets franchise just looked a little shaky last season.
Harden is much more confident heading into this year and told Feigen that he’s been training all summer in attempts to combat a “disappointing” season. Somehow, Harden was left off all three of the All-NBA teams after averaging 29 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.1 rebounds.
Data courtesy of Basketball-Reference