Change the head coach, bring in new players. Some things can’t change, and any team with James Harden on board completely relies on his ability, and his motivation to change as a leader and basketball players. To make a long story short: Hold your horses on the Houston Rockets completely transforming, and doing a whole lot better than last season.
For the second straight season, Harden led the NBA in total points, averaging a career high 29 per game last season. When you’re the team’s main ball handler, the only player who can create for himself and others, and the only guy who can make as many mistakes he possibly can and not be held responsible for it, maybe something needs to change.
There are two schools of thought to this issue, which is about figuring out why the Rockets had such a bad 2015-2016 season, falling from the heights of finally making the conference finals, to barely making the playoffs in 2016.
Daryl Morey represents the “Harden is fine, everyone else is bad”: He’s only a polarizing figure to people who don’t watch. Players voted him MVP [in 2014/15] for a reason. He’s had a winning team every season of his career, with multiple Conference Finals appearances.
Maybe he has a point. Teammates like Jason Terry, even after leaving the Rockets, defended Harden and the criticism he receives, especially for his effort on defense. Maybe Harden is asked to do too much? With such a load to carry on offense, no one can be expected to play defense like every possession matters. Harden didn’t miss a single game last season, and led the NBA in minutes, playing 38.1 per game.
But if Harden isn’t to blame, Morey is. This means the players around Harden, the team Morety built, was simply a disaster. Sometimes, the numbers being crunched up don’t work. The personality of players, something that can’t be signified numerically, can be a more important factor in the final product on the floor, which was bad for the Rockets last season.
And then there’s the “blame Harden, no matter what” bandwagon. The truth is somewhere in between. The Rockets remained committed to Harden as their leading player, but did what they can to change things around him. It was something of an admittance that Morey’s way failed, bringing in a head coach (Mike D’Antoni) that will look to turn Harden into something else, while adding shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to the mix, and changing the frontcourt by bringing in Nene, and hopefully getting rid of bad influences like Josh Smith and Dwight Howard.
In the end, beyond all the words and different names, there’s only player who decides where this season will go: James Harden. If he tries to do too much on his own, the efforts of building a championship team in Houston will fail.