Howard and Harden have been an oil-and-water mix since they came together for the 2012-13 season. It was only days after Damian Lillard‘s 3-point dagger eliminated them in the first round of their first playoff series together when both were sending out messages and maneuvering to get the other one traded.
Harden is a difficult teammate to play with, dominating the ball and so much of every shot clock and Howard too often felt ignored.
[Correction: That Rockets-Trail Blazers series occurred in 2014.]
Plenty could have changed since 2014, and Howard and Harden clicked well enough last season to lead the Rockets to the Western Conference finals.
But it’s hard to watch their disharmony – and, by extension, the Rockets’ disharmony – this season and believe there are no lingering issues. It’s easier to get over those problems when the team is winning. When it’s losing, personal issues can be both a cause and symptom, snowballing on themselves.
To whatever extent Howard and Harden are still battling, Harden is winning. That’s only logical considering Harden is better, four years younger and on a more favorable contract.
If Howard wants to stay in Houston (he says he does) and play without Harden (much more questionable), Howard should have campaigned better two years ago.