The Rockets held a players-only meeting.
The result? Houston fired Kevin McHale.
But the coach wasn’t the only person criticized in the meeting. James Harden also faced scrutiny.
While players tried to keep details of the meeting private, two themes emerged, three people told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. Harden’s play and aloofness have frustrated teammates, and McHale took the brunt of the blame for the team’s play. Practices were not resulting in improved play in games.
Neither the meeting’s content nor result are surprising.
Harden’s lack of defensive effort has been glaring, and his offense hasn’t been impressive enough to offset that. But you can’t fire the player. You can fire the coach.
Really, these issues are all related.
If Harden defended harder, Houston would have won more, and his teammates would’ve been happier. If his teammates were happier, they might have worked harder in practices. If they worked harder in practice, McHale might have looked more effective. On the flip side, if Harden believed more in McHale, Harden might’ve defended harder. If Harden defended harder… return to step one.
McHale wasn’t the Rockets’ only problem. Harden has fallen way short of expectations. He now knows his teammates recognize that.
What will he do about it? He has an opportunity to make amends in a way McHale doesn’t.