According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, sources said Harden was behind the early-season firing of head coach Kevin McHale, and pushed for Howard to get traded as well.
Despite the rumors, Brown was insistent that there was no backdoor dealing being done on Harden's part, per ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins:
I can tell you unequivocally, being part of that (front-office) team, those things have never happened. That's frustrating, and, for whatever reason, it's been a constant throughout this season. As we struggle and as we continue to struggle a little bit on the court, trying to get things to where we want them to be, that people have continued to take shots at our guys, take shots at our team, with unnamed sources being the ones who routinely provide that information.
It's disappointing and it's bothersome from the standpoint of, James doesn't deserve this, Dwight doesn't deserve. This, whether it be James coming in demanding to have Dwight traded—there was an article in the last week where supposedly both James and Dwight came to management and they both wanted each other traded—that never happened. Where James supposedly came in and demanded there be a coaching change—that never happened. Dwight came in and said he wanted to be traded—that never happened. These things comes up and take a life of their own.
After reaching the Western Conference Finals last season, the 2015-16 campaign has been a struggle for the Rockets, as they are just 29-29 and in eighth place in the conference despite their considerable talent.
Harden continues to produce, with over 28 points per game, while Howard certainly appears to be on the decline with 14.5 points and 12 rebounds per contest, both of which are well below his career averages.
Although there were reports that the Rockets attempted to trade Howard prior to the deadline, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, any such talks weren't initiated by Houston's top two players in Brown's estimation.
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With Howard free to opt out of his contract and test free agency this coming offseason, it seems likely that his days in Houston are coming to an end.
D-12 has received the bulk of the blame for the Rockets' drop-off this season due to a perceived chemistry issue, so there will be a great deal of pressure on the franchise to perform well next season if the scapegoat is out of the picture.
Even though Brown has made it clear that Harden isn't to blame for any behind-the-scenes tension, that pressure will undoubtedly fall on the four-time All Star's shoulders due to the outside perception that he—like so many other NBA stars—is truly running the show.
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