Do Dwight Howard and James Harden 'Eat Separately' from Rockets Teammates?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

USA Today

Dwight Howard and James Harden's leadership skills just continue to come under fire. 

UPDATE on Friday, August 8 at 5:50 p.m. ET by Adam Fromal

Sometimes, a lot can be lost in translation. 

According to a Reddit translation of Donatas Motiejunas' original interview, D-Mo's words, as provided below, have been taken out of context (h/t Deadspin's Barry Petchesky).

As I don't know Lithuanian, I can't confirm the exact validity of said translation, but this appears to be much kinder to the notable Houston Rockets stars: 

When communicating with Howard and Harden, what do you talk about? A: Basically I say just "Hello" and "Goodbye" to them. Q: They don't invite you to barbecue or something? A: No, they eat different food than me. Q: What? Do you mean they eat oysters? A: No... being European, I am more likely to eat oyster than them. They eat fast food.

It's scary enough that the possibly mistranslated takeaways you can find in the original text are actually believable claims. That alone doesn't speak too kindly to Houston's chemistry after a disappointing offseason. 

However, D-Mo is not adding fuel to the fire. In fact, he even calls Dwight Howard "a fun guy to be around in general," according to that same translation. 

--End of Update--


Typically, you'd expect the two stars on a team to involve the rest of the roster. You'd want them to take the young players—and the experienced veterans who are fulfilling specific roles—under their wings and help them grow, both as players and as people.

But such isn't the case for the Houston Rockets. As CBS Sports' Matt Hammond rightfully explains, "It's worth noting, this is just one player's opinion, from just one player's vantage point." 

However, what Donatas Motiejunas has to say isn't exactly a positive in a summer filled with foot-in-mouth statements by the bearded shooting guard and his superstar teammate: 

Unfortunately, this is only the latest blow to the dynamic duo's credibility as leaders. Some context is necessary, as D-Mo was a trade candidate earlier this season and isn't guaranteed an uptick in playing time going forward, but the words are still right in line with everything else we've heard this summer. 

Earlier this offseason, Grantland's Zach Lowe had a decidedly negative take on the culture in Houston. Chris Bosh, he speculated, might have turned down the contract Houston offered him not only because he wanted to remain with the Miami Heat, but also because Harden and Howard would've been his teammates: 

He was intrigued by Houston, but he's 30, he's super-smart, and he just spent four years playing with two like-minded stars on an older roster for an organization that takes basketball craft seriously. The Rockets do, too, but there is an undercurrent around the league that Harden and Howard don't represent the most appealing duo of teammates for any star who has lived within ultraserious professionalism.

Howard was great last year, but the jokiness and free-agent dithering hurt his image. The viral videos of Harden's defense damaged his reputation. It wouldn't shock me if Bosh at least considered some of that in his decision.

In addition to that, we have the whole Chandler Parsons saga

"It won't affect us at all," D12 explained to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, after his former teammate left for the Dallas Mavericks. "We have myself and James. We have the best center and the best two guard in the game on the same team. It's on us."

Surely Harden had something more sensible to say, right? 

Well, not exactly. 

November 23, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) gestures to the crowd during the third quarter against the New York Knicks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

"Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets," Harden told  of The Philippine Star, refusing to acknowledge the significance of losing Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. "The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We've lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we'll be fine next season."

Actions speak louder and words, and now both point toward the two stars feeling as though they're the key pieces in Houston. Not only has Harden verbally referred to the rest of the roster as less important than himself and Howard, but he's acting like it by separating himself and his star teammate from everyone else. 

As anyone who's ever taken part in communal mealtime knows, eating food is a great time to bond. Conversations abound, secrets are shared, jokes are had and it's easy to get to know one another. 

It's significantly harder when, as Motiejunas puts it, the two key players just say hi and bye. 

The Rockets are primed to enjoy a competitive season, even if they've taken a slight step backward in the brutally difficult Western Conference. However, it's not exactly a secret that chemistry matters in the NBA

If that chemistry blows up, the step won't be slight. 

Whether Houston is trying to compete this season or attempting to lure in more key pieces during future free-agency periods, a culture change may be needed. At the very least, a mentality change must happen for two big-name players. 

What are your expectations for the Rockets in 2014-15? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook. 


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