It’s probably a little late for James Harden to take the high road after all the destruction and chaos he caused the Rockets, torpedoing the locker room with his toxic, “what’s in it for me?” mentality. After weeks of tension, the dam finally broke Tuesday night when Harden let loose in a fiery post-game presser, dismissing the Rockets as “just not good enough” while asserting his fractured relationship with the team was beyond repair. For all the criticism he’s received from Shaquille O’Neal and others who have characterized his behavior as selfish and unprofessional, the fact remains, Harden got precisely what he wanted—a trade to a contending team far, far away from Houston.
Harden knew he would eventually have to answer for all the havoc he wreaked, leaving his teammates as collateral damage in the wake of a month-long hissy fit, a harrowing spectacle that culminated in Wednesday’s trade to Brooklyn, a blockbuster deal that’s still sending shockwaves throughout the NBA. Sure enough, Harden fielded a question about his chaotic divorce from Houston Friday during his Nets introduction. Specifically, Harden was asked to address comments made by DeMarcus Cousins, who accused Harden of alienating teammates with his “antics” and “disrespect.” Here was Harden’s response:
“I just made a comment that the team, as a whole, wasn’t good enough to compete for a title,” Harden insisted, hoping to clarify his earlier remarks. “I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anybody, especially not to the organization.”
Harden “regrets” how he handled certain situations, though ultimately, he’s glad to be in Brooklyn. “I don’t need the attention, especially the negative energy, the negative attention. I’ve never been that guy,” said Harden, reminiscing on his turbulent final days in Houston. “There were some things I felt were out of my character. But the ultimate goal was to get somewhere where I can compete and here I am in Brooklyn.” Harden went on to say he has “nothing but love and respect” for the Rockets organization and the city of Houston for “everything they’ve done for me and my family.”
It’s surprising to see Harden show any level of accountability given his recent defiance, not that it matters much now. The former MVP can wax poetic all he wants about the “good times” in Houston, but it’s going to take a lot more than a heartfelt Instagram post and a tepid acknowledgment of wrongdoing to heal that wound.