As the Houston Pockets fuel up for this season with their reloaded roster, former head coach Kevin McHale gave his opinion on his old team’s upcoming season. As James Harden and company look to improve on last season and give the Golden State Warriors a run for their money, McHale gave his take on the leadership (or lack thereof) from Harden and how it has impacted the team.

“James can see all the passes and do everything, but James is not a leader,” said McHale. “He tried being a leader last year, tried doing all that stuff. I think Chris Paul is going to help him just kind of get back into just being able to hoop and stuff like that.”

While I think it’s messed up that a former head coach is hitting the interview circuit to insult his former player and rag on his leadership skills, he does make a point. Harden doesn’t do much on defense, and it is difficult as a leader to make others do what you say, not as you do.

“But on every team, you have to have a voice,” continued McHale. “On every team, you have to have somebody that when they say something, people listen. Like if James tells you, ‘You’ve got to play better D,’ are you going to listen to him? Like you’ve gotta be kidding me. I lived through it. Believe me, everybody in the locker room did this. Every time he mentioned defense, everybody would put their head down.”

Harden wasn’t too happy about it. I can’t imagine that hearing your former coach tell you that you’re the polar opposite of a leader.

Harden fired back, saying, in effect, that McHale never taught him how to be one.

“He’s a clown, honestly,” said Harden after the Rockets practice Saturday. “I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I’ve tried to lead this team every day since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go on air and just downplay my name, when honestly he’s never taught me anything to be a leader.”

And, hey, if you’re former coach doesn’t have your back, you always have your own! Harden decided to list off people that believe in his leadership skills before getting back on McHale and the nonsense involved with an old man talking smack about his former superstar.

“But I’ve done a great job,” continued Harden. “The organization, my coaches, you can ask any of those guys how I’ve worked extremely hard every single day to better, obviously as a basketball player, but be a leader as well. To go on air and downplay my name like that, it just shows his character. I usually don’t go back and forth on social media with anybody or with interviews, but I’m going to stand up for myself, and there it is. But you just don’t go and do that. It shows what type of person he is.”

McHale didn’t spend all his time telling Harden that he’s terrible, however. He also took some time to say that he’s actually excited for the Rockets prospects this season, mainly because of the addition of Chris Paul. With CP3 on the team, Harden doesn’t need to be a leader; Paul will have all that covered.

“Chris Paul is going to push him, too,” said McHale. “When he does that stab in the backcourt, doesn’t get a foul, looking at the referee, not running back, Chris Paul is going to jump his butt. That’s going to make him a better player. I just think Chris Paul will be good for James
Harden. It will allow him to just be what he is, which is a phenomenal basketball player, not trying to lead a team. That’s just not his personality.”

Clearly the bad blood between Harden and McHale runs deep. There’s no way this is the first time that this topic has been brought up. And I’m sure that there was a lot of arguing between the two while they were still together before McHale’s mysterious random firing.

Harden still denies a role in getting rid of the head coach.

“I had nothing to do with it,” said Harden. “I’m just here to do my job, compete at the highest level I can…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 or go on air and say another thing.”

Harden did, however, agree that Paul, a well-known no-nonsense leader, will make everyone better this season as he begins to form into his new role with the Rockets.

McHale should keep his mouth shut moving forward. Let Harden fail or succeed on his own.

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