James Harden’s final post-game press conference with the Houston Rockets, where he heavily criticized the team, followed a heated locker room meeting in which teammates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins called him out over his “level of commitment” following months of trade rumors and off-court antics, reports say.
Several sources told The Athletic in a report published Monday that first-year head coach Stephen Silas led the discussion after the Rockets suffered a second blowout loss against the Los Angeles Lakers and Harden was at the center of it all.
“The group was fed up with the antics, tired of the headlines and the constant questions about Harden’s state of mind and where this was all going,” the report read. “And with every day that Harden remained in Houston, his presence became increasingly burdensome for a team that just wanted a sense of clarity and understanding.”
Sources said that multiple players expressed displeasure with Harden’s recent attitude and effort toward the team and when Silas asked players for their “unfiltered views” that’s when Wall and Cousins asked for a direct response from Harden on his “level of commitment,” the report stated.
After the meeting, the players let the drama unravel during their zoom conferences.
“We’re not even close, honestly, to, obviously, the defending champions and all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said at the time. “We’re just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise, just everything.”
He continued. “I love this city. I’ve literally done everything that I can. The situation, it’s crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed. Thanks.”
Harden’s “chemistry” remark makes sense following reports of the team meeting, something Wall also alluded to during his press conference.
“When the 1-15 guys all on the same page and they commit, they know their role, they know what they wanna do, they know what they wanna get out of this that’s to win, you all will be fine. But when you have certain guys in the mix that don’t wanna buy in all as one, it’s going to be hard to do anything good as a basketball team,” he said.
“We can’t dwell down on it because it’s only been nine games. Come on, man, you want to jump off the cliff off of nine games? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”
“We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions,” he said. “Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court, the disrespect started way before [Tuesday night].”
Harden said after his departure that the comments weren’t said out of disrespect and that he just felt that “the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title,” something he’s focused on at this point in his career.