Often times in the world of sports, team’s try and assemble a super team in order to compete for championships. A good portion of those times, these so-called super teams are great, at least on paper. For one reason or another, some teams just can’t get it done with a plethora of upper echelon talent on one team.
This happens to be the case with the Houston Rockets, who paired guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard together in 2013. The team has been up and down, but these two have been reported to not get along. The Rockets dangled the bait of possibly trading Howard ahead of last week’s NBA trade deadline, but no team took the bait despite Houston’s efforts to move him.
General manager Daryl Morey was asking for a hefty price for the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He was asking for a high-end player that could replace Howard as well a future first round pick per multiple reports. Teams were hesitant about giving up major assets and draft picks for Howard, who can opt out of his current contract at the end of the season, an option he has said he will exercise in order to become an unrestricted free agent.
While there were teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks who were trying to negotiate a deal, there was no agreement because Howard would not agree to opt in to his final year of his contract. Now the Rockets will have to ride out the rest of the season and play the waiting game with Howard. It’s not entirely out of the question that Howard doesn’t re-sign with Houston as he has said he wants to be in Houston and Morey has said he wants him back. Howard is 30-years old with back and shoulder injuries amongst other nagging issues that have piled up in his career. That could sour teams on giving him a boatload of money.
Morey and the Rockets will try and lure Kevin Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder with the pitch that he can play with two other superstars, one that he’s had success with in the past in Harden and Howard. While this scenario seems highly unlikely due to Durant’s willingness to win, nobody can definitively say just yet that Houston can’t land him. What could be troublesome in hopes to adding a third piece to a super team is the fact that Harden and Howard don’t see eye-to-eye. In fact, there was a report that surfaced that days after the Rockets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, eliminating them from title contention in the first round of the 2013-2014 playoffs, that both Harden and Howard tried to get one another traded. Howard doesn’t seem to like being the second fiddle to Harden who often times dominates the ball and the shot clock, limiting touches for Howard and other teammates.
Both of these players are elite talents in the NBA. Howard is a rim-protecting center who can finish around the rim. Harden is a versatile scorer who can explode for 40-plus points any given night. The unfortunate thing for Houston is that these two stars can’t seem to co-exist on the floor. Morey denied the rumors of the two players wanting the other traded. They were able to put their differences aside last season, making a run all the way to the Western Conference Finals, before ultimately losing to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.
This situation between Harden and Howard is similar, yet completely different to the situation Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe and Shaq won three consecutive NBA championships and appeared in another Finals before the bad blood boiled to its peak and Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. The duo of Howard and Harden have only been to a single Western Conference Final and that could be the highest point they reach as teammates. Max Kellerman of ESPN’s SportsNation weighed in on the comparison of Harden and Howard to Shaq and Kobe.
“Neither one of you [Harden and Howard] are Kobe or Shaq. Neither one of you are good enough to win a championship as the best player on the team,” Kellerman said.
He’s right on the money with that quote. Sure, both players are great, but are either of them really the guy you’re looking to legitimately lead you to a championship? Both players want the glitz and glamor of being the top dog in the yard, but neither seem to possess the right mentality to really achieve that. Howard has been said to get over losing games fairly quickly while Harden always seems to have a nonchalant attitude while doing his own thing, while that could largely be perception the results are in fact reality.
The Rockets are currently 28-28 and are the eighth seed as of now. If that holds up, they will have a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final against the Warriors, who are on a mission to repeat as champions. If this season ends with no playoff appearance, that could entice Howard to search for a new home. If this team can go on a little run and move up the loaded Western Conference ranks and then make a playoff run, that could be the proof we need that Harden and Howard can co-exist and Morey can continue to build the team around them.
Only time will tell how this situation will unfold, but for the time being “Houston, we have a dysfunctional problem.”