James Harden might be one of the best players in the NBA, but former Rockets head coach Kevin McHale says he has a major weakness holding him back. Despite everything he's able to do with the ball in his hands, including make incredible things happen on offense and get players involved, McHale says Harden isn't a leader.
In an episode of NBA TV's Open Court, McHale brought up the subject by first saying how Chris Paul is going to be a great addition next to Harden. He said not only is Paul a superstar player himself, he's also not afraid to get in someone's face when they don't listen or play defense. McHale says this isn't a quality found in Harden, who goes out and talks to players, but just isn't able to reach them.
I think it makes them a much better team because you had James Harden with the ball, he's fantastic with the ball – the guys got phenomenal vision, James can see all the passes and do everything but James is not a leader. He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens. Look, if James tells you 'Chuck, you've got to play better [defense]!' Are you going to listen to him? You're kidding me! I lived through it, everybody in the locker room [shook their head].
McHale's comments at first seem unnecessarily harsh toward one of his former players. However, this isn't the first time Harden's non-confrontational attitude has been mentioned this summer. Dwight Howard told Lee Jenkins that this was a problem when he was in Houston as both he and Harden had a tendency to avoid confrontation, which led to an unnecessary dispute between the two.
"James is not the kind of guy who is going to say, 'Yo, man, you got a problem?' and I'm not either," Howard says.
What McHale appears to be saying here is that Paul can take some of that pressure of leadership off Harden. He doesn't have to go out there and get in the faces of his teammates for playing defense, because Paul will already be in the process of doing that. Now, Harden will be able to just go out there and play basketball.