James Harden Says Truthful Thing, Everyone Gets Mad

  • Eric Goldschein

james harden dwight howard

The sports media world is buzzing about comments Rockets guard and defensive virtuoso James Harden gave to The Phillipine Star recently, when asked about the team’s loss of Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.

Here are the comments, in case you missed them:

“Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets,” said Harden. “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.”

Here’s the thing about breaking down a team: Only sportswriters and analysts are allowed to do it. That’s the rule. Did you not get the memo, James?

Imagine Charles Barkley saying this about Harden and Howard. Think he gets any flack? How about Adrian Wojnarowski describing Harden and Howard as the building blocks of the franchise. How many re-tweets would that get? If I wrote in an article, perhaps one just like this, “Harden and Howard, the Rockets’ superstars, carried the team to victory last night,” and referred to everyone else as “everyone else,” would you even blink?

Doesn’t matter. Harden can’t say that about his team, because it’s all for one and one for all, right? Everyone is on equal footing, from Isaiah Canaan to Terrence Jones to Harden himself.

That’s why they all get paid the same amount, right?

That’s why they all take the same number of shots per game, right?

That’s why they all go to the Philippines and get interviewed about the team’s outlook, right?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one considers Patrick Beverely a star in this league. Same for Robert Covington, and Omri Cassipi, and Donatas Motiejunas. They are, to borrow a phrase, role players. Pieces. Guys who can — and at some point likely will, knowing Daryl Morey — be traded for other guys. Meanwhile, Harden and Howard aren’t going anywhere.

Is referring to your teammates as role players the nicest thing to do? No. In fact, it only reinforces the perception that Harden’s a tough guy to play with. But what he said isn’t wrong. It’s actually dead-on. Harden and Howard are the cornerstones of the franchise. Even Jeremy Lin says so. That’s the problem.

Too often, we want players to be honest and open and thoughtful in their responses, only to shoot them down when they are any of those things. At least Harden is giving us something to talk about with this soundbite (would we write an article called “James Harden appreciates Rockets teammates, thinks everyone is great”?), which is needed in this time of great slowness, otherwise known as late July.

Photo via Getty