James Harden has demanded a trade from the Houston Rockets for months now, but the former league MVP took his thoughts to the public Tuesday night following a 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We're not even close, honestly, to that team — obviously the defending champions — and all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said in a Zoom press conference with reporters. “I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games.
“We're just not good enough — chemistry, talent-wise, just everything. And it was clear these last two games.”
Houston has dropped two straight to fall to 3-6 on the season, the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Harden has averaged 24.8 points, 10.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game on 44.4 percent shooting (34.7% from 3-point range). The last time he averaged fewer than 25 points per contest was the 2011-12 season, his final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder before being traded to the Rockets.
Point guard John Wall, who the Rockets acquired in a trade with the Wizards just before training camp, fired back at Harden in his presser that immediately followed the disgruntled star’s tirade.
“End of the day, a lot of guys here wanna compete at a high level,” Wall said. “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.
“We can’t dwell down on it because it’s only been nine games. Come on, man, you want to jump off the cliff after nine games? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”
In his return from an Achilles injury that cost him over a season’s worth of games, Wall has averaged 18.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game on a career-high 45.4 percent shooting (32.3% from 3-point range). He talked about some of the Wizards teams he was on early in his career that played the selfish brand of basketball that he’s seen in Houston.
“I’ve been on those teams…my first five years where it was all about me, me, me, me, not about the team and it hurts and it brings everybody down,” Wall said. “So if we can all get on the same page, we can do something good here.”