James Harden clashed with star teammates Dwight Howard and Chris Paul on the Rockets. Harden turned off role-player teammates by using his leverage to set the team’s schedule to accommodate his partying. On the court, he dominated the ball, disengaged when without the ball on offense and played lazy defense. To force a trade last season, Harden flaunted the NBA’s coronavirus protocols to party and reported late to Houston. Once he arrived, he quarreled with teammates during practice and publicly declared the Rockets to be broken beyond repair – further disrespecting teammates who cared about the season.
Harden got traded to Brooklyn, where he clashed with star teammates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. To force another trade, Harden sulked and sapped morale. He reportedly told Durant he was committed to the Nets… while actually wanting to leave – and indicating his true feelings through his actions. Harden reportedly arrived late to multiple games (while sidelined by a hamstring injury).
After another trade, to the 76ers, Harden has earned a reputation as a bad teammate.
“That’s for the media. The media say that. I feel like I’m one of the best teammates that the NBA’s seen, on the court and off the court.”
“Just because the current situation happened, whatever happened, happened,” Harden said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m a bad teammate. Me, personally, I feel like I needed to do what’s best for my career, and help myself and be happy. It doesn’t harp on whether I’m a bad teammate or not.”
Harden wasn’t necessarily wrong for prioritizing his own career. How many people, to support their co-workers, would stay in what they deem to be a less-than-ideal job when they have the power to get a better one? Being a bad teammate doesn’t make Harden a bad person.
But the job-hopping explanation doesn’t absolve Harden of being a bad teammate when the question is about his quality as a teammate. To get what he wanted, he was a bad teammate. Just because it might have been rational for Harden to want trades doesn’t negate how he acted toward his teammates.
Finally where he wants to be, Harden might be a fine teammate in Philadelphia. Maybe even a good one.
Again, though, Harden’s playing and leadership styles ruffled some teammates even when Harden seemed happy in Houston.
He has much to prove as a teammate with the 76ers.