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Rockets news: Team at a breaking point with James Harden

Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball over San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and guard Lonnie Walker IV (middle right) and guard Dejounte Murray (5) during the first half. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

To say that Houston Rockets news leading up to their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder next Wednesday has been unflattering would be an understatement. Most of it stems from the team’s drama-filled relationship with star point guard James Harden.

As you likely already know, Harden has requested a trade from the Rockets. He was also away from the team during the early portion of training camp, partying in Georgia and Las Vegas against NBA COVID-19 protocols. Yeah, things are not going swimmingly in Houston right now.

We now have more information on this, and it’s not great.

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Rockets news: Team at a breaking point with James Harden

In an article titled “James Harden and the Houston Rockets are at a breaking point,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon paints an unflattering picture of the three-time reigning NBA scoring champion. It includes rifts with former star teammates Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook as well as a belief that Harden is not all in when he’s off the court.

“If they have multiple days off, everybody knows: James is going to fly somewhere else and party. But he’s going to come back and have a 50-point triple-double, so they’re OK with it,” a member of the Rockets coaching staff from last season noted to MacMahon.

This fits in tightly with Rockets news indicating that Harden was not at practice when the team was initially preparing for the 2020-21 NBA regular season. Rather, he opted to violate NBA COVID-19 protocols and put the start of his season in jeopardy. Obviously, that had as much to do with Harden wanting out of dodge than anything else. Even then, it tells us a story of a fractured relationship between Harden and his organization.

Rockets news: Toxic culture in Houston

Rockets news: James Harden
Dec 9, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) laughs after he made a basket while being fouled by the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This comes on the heels of one NBA executive indicating that the current culture in Houston is “toxic” under embattled owner Tilman Fertitta. Reading between the lines, the Rockets’ preferential treatment of James Harden could be one of the primary reasons why.

“Harden insisted the Rockets get the deal done (for Westbrook prior to last season), saying he’d demand a trade if they didn’t find a way to bring his childhood friend and former OKC teammate to Houston, sources said,” MacMahon reported. “The Rockets paid a price that was considered steep at the time — Paul, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, and swap rights in 2021 and 2025.”

Unfortunately that relationship was severed after just one season. This is primarily due to Harden having a problem with Westbrook, as he did with Chris Paul before. Noticing a theme here?

Star players being high maintenance is nothing new. However, it appears that Harden is taking this to a new level with his current Rockets team.

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Rockets news: No James Harden trade is imminent

Fresh off scoring 12 points in his preseason debut against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday evening, it appears that Harden will remain with the Rockets. At the very least, for the short term.

Houston’s asking price for the former NBA MVP is said to be extremely high. Add in his off-court antics and the lack of contending teams able to field competitive offers and the belief is that Houston is not in a hurry to trade its star two-guard.

All of this comes with the Rockets having added John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins to the mix in the offseason under first-year general manager Rafael Stone. Cousins himself is seen as a volatile personality. It’s not yet known how his relationship with Harden will work moving forward.

Rockets news: James Harden trade scenarios

Heck, Wall is a former NBA MVP candidate and mans the same position as Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, two players who had issues with Harden in the past. This could very well lead to major drama in Houston until Harden gets his wish and is traded.

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