Kevin McHale Says James Harden 'Not a Leader' for Rockets

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 21:  Head coach Kevin McHale of the Houston Rockets talks with James Harden #13 during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 21, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Former Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said superstar guard James Harden "is not a leader" in large part due to his defensive deficiencies.

On Friday, Ryne Nelson of Slam Online passed along comments the Boston Celtics legend made about Harden's leadership during an appearance on NBA TV.

"But James is not a leader," McHale said. "He tried being a leader last year, tried doing that stuff. I think Chris Paul is going to help him just kind of get back into just being able to hoop and play and stuff like that."

He added: "Look, if James tells you, 'Chuck, you got to play better D.' You listening to him? You got to be kidding me. I lived through it, believe me. Everybody in the locker room did this [hand on forehead]. Every time he mentioned defense, everybody would put their head down, like you got to be kidding me."

McHale praised the guard's offensive skill set, saying he's "fantastic with the ball, great passer. The guy's got phenomenal vision. Talk about vision, James can see all the passes and do everything." But he concluded trying to lead a team just isn't his "personality."

Here's a look at the NBA TV segment on Paul's offseason arrival from the Los Angeles Clippers:

Harden finished second in MVP voting last year to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. He averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals, while shooting 44.0 percent from the field across 81 games for Houston.

The Rockets rewarded him with a four-year, $170 million contract extension that brings the overall value of his current deals with the team to a record-setting $228 million.

Concerns about his defense are legitimate, though. He finished fourth in the NBA in Offensive Real Plus-Minus during the 2016-17 campaign, but he tied for 399th in the defensive version of the same stat, according to ESPN.com.

Meanwhile, Paul ranked highly in both categories, including a 22nd-place showing in DRPM, which at least lends some credence to McHale's comments. The Basketball Hall of Famer was also Harden's head coach for three-plus seasons starting in 2012-13.

The key question is whether the longtime Clippers point guard's arrival will be enough for the Rockets to seriously challenge the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.

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