The leadership void left in Harden’s wake was even larger than his presence over the last eight years.
To force his trade request, Harden made a mess in Houston. He got his desired trade to the Nets. But the other Rockets – who are trying to achieve success in Houston this season – had to deal with his shenanigans and weren’t pleased.
Mark Berman of Fox 26:
.@JohnWall: “I feel like I’m the franchise guy now that James has left. You very rarely get the opportunity to be a franchise (guy) in two different cities and two different teams..I feel like that’s my job, to be the leader of this team.” #Rockets pic.twitter.com/KUBt8rNSwj
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) February 5, 2021
I feel now like the franchise guy since James has left. And you very rarely get the opportunity to be a franchise in two different cities and two different teams.
I feel like that’s my job, to be the leader of this team. And like I said, I don’t have to be the leading scorer for our team. I don’t have to take the most shots. My job is to make sure everybody is comfortable, everybody is playing at a high level, everybody has respect for one another and that we trust our coaching staff in whatever game plan they give us. And they trust me out there as being basically the coach on the floor when I have the ball in my hands.
Wall clearly cares about status. Before Washington traded him, there were questions about how Wall would accept a lowered stature. Bradley Beal clearly ascended to the Wizards’ franchise player while Wall was out injured.
The Rockets don’t have a Beal, though.
Wall is Houston’s highest-paid player and starting point guard. Both positions naturally lend themselves to leadership. The Rockets clearly look happier without Harden and with Wall taking charge.
But Christian Wood is the team’s best player. Victor Oladipo was a star more recently than Wall and has a better chance of returning to that level. P.J. Tucker is Houston’s heart and soul, though he is accustomed to taking a backseat after spending so many years with Harden.
More importantly, for the Rockets to proceed in a positive direction, they almost certainly must add someone who lands clearly ahead of Wall in the pecking order. How will Wall react when that happens?
That’s an issue for another day. For now, Houston appears to be enjoying the current setup – with Harden gone and Wall taking charge.