James Harden: Rockets 'Not Good Enough'; I've Done 'Everything That I Can'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2021

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and coach Stephen Silas, right, react after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Houston. (Troy Taormina/Pool Photo via AP)
Troy Taormina/Associated Press

James Harden is done being subtle about his desire to be traded. 

After Tuesday's 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden told reporters he didn't think the Rockets were good enough to consistently win and said he doesn't think it can be fixed:

Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26

James Harden asked if he’s surprised the #Rockets didn’t make a run: “We’re just not good enough..Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear..I love this city I’ve literally done everything that I can..It’s crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.” https://t.co/1bbfrytyUj

In one fell swoop, Harden basically threw his teammates and the team's culture under the bus and publicly reaffirmed that he doesn't want to be with the Rockets any longer. If there was a college course on how to publicly demand a trade without actually publicly demanding a trade, Harden would be its professor. 

Not surprisingly, the comments made Harden the center of NBA Twitter:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Dramatic scene ... Especially when combined with the reality that the state of Harden’s game (and conditioning) is not making it any easier on the Rockets in their quest to assemble a palatable trade https://t.co/jWcN5vSMgc

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

James Harden's aware that the Rockets are continuing to discuss trade scenarios with teams, although no deal is imminent, sources tell ESPN. Houston's asking price remains steep, as you'd expect it would for a player of Harden's caliber. https://t.co/I4RuHgzcvU

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

James Harden did not take any more questions after this. That's as close to publicly demanding a trade as you can get. https://t.co/knUpb3Iopb

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

At this point, the only thing left for James Harden to do is pull a Chris Morris (Google him, kids) & write, "Please" on the back of one shoe & "Trade me" on the back of the other. https://t.co/mm4OY43dbk

All of this after Harden was the center of attention before the Lakers game, too, albeit for far different reasons:

Yahoo Fantasy Sports @YahooFantasy

James Harden, goal line RB. https://t.co/7FE1cJwDuP

Harden wasn't the only one being honest after the game. John Wall told reporters the on-court fit with Harden has "been a little rocky."

Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26

.@JohnWall on how things have gone with @JHarden13 on the court: “I think it’s been a little rocky. Can’t lie about that. I don’t think it’s been the best it could be, to be honest. That’s all I really could say.” https://t.co/9fQSMg9j6q

Kelly Iko @KellyIkoNBA

Wall: When you have certain guys that don’t want to buy in, it’s hard.

Yikes. It's all just one big yikes in Houston. 

Harden surely isn't helping the chemistry or the on-court play, given how clearly unhappy he is in Houston. Over his last five games, he's averaging only 17.4 points per game while shooting 37.8 percent from three and 25.6 percent from the field. For a player of Harden's MVP-level standard, those numbers are abysmal. 

However, it's also fair to question whether Harden's desire to be traded is hurting his chances of being dealt, or at the very least damaging his trade value. Generally, the perception is that Harden's incredible offensive ability overrides any potential culture concerns he brings to the table. But some general managers around the league are likely watching Harden's approach to this season and wondering if he could pull the same trick on them if he ever grew unhappy in that situation. 

That makes giving up young and talented players for the 31-year-old Harden a risky proposition. Somebody will pull the trigger—Harden is a singular scoring threat when engaged—but it may lead to a slower-developing trade market than the superstar is willing to accept.