The strenuous relationship between the Houston Rockets and superstar James Harden continues to deteriorate as the team prepares to tip off its 2020-21 season. Harden has voiced his displeasure with the direction of the team on multiple occasions, and reportedly requested a trade from the team in order to join a contender ready to win a championship right now. The Rockets, however, are in no rush to ship off their franchise cornerstone unless an adequate package materializes.
Until then, Harden has told the Rockets he would remain professional, but tensions have already begun to flare between him and his teammates. The one-time MVP has reportedly gotten into verbal arguments with teammates during practices on Sunday and Monday, one of which elevated further than that when he threw a ball at rookie Jae'Sean Tate after a heated exchange, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.
The situation didn't elevate past that, and the ball never made contact with Tate, but it's being viewed as uncharacteristic behavior from the typically laid-back Harden, per Charania. This situation could've also just been two competitive teammates having a moment during practice, and may not actually be Harden causing issues within the locker room because he doesn't want to be there. Still, though, the event is just another notch on the lengthy timeline of events that have transpired between Harden and the Rockets in the past few months.
To say Houston has had a tumultuous offseason would be a massive understatement. It started with the departure of coach Mike D'Antoni shortly after the team lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Lakers, followed by general manager Daryl Morey stepping down.
Then began the discontent between Harden and Russell Westbrook, with the latter saying if he didn't see any changes then he would rather play elsewhere. Westbrook reportedly wasn't happy with the "casual culture" that existed within the Rockets organization and the special treatment Harden received in regards to him not being held accountable when he would show up late to practices and team flights for away games. Westbrook was subsequently traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall in order to satisfy both Westbrook's want to be traded, and Harden no longer wanting to play with him.
However, even after the Rockets executed the latest trade to appease Harden, the perennial MVP candidate still wants out of Houston, and would prefer to join either the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks or Miami Heat. Nothing with those teams have materialized to the point where a trade is imminent -- Miami reportedly pulled out of talks with Houston -- but anything can happen in this league at a moment's notice.
As the Rockets prepare to start their season on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, all eyes will be on how Harden gets along with new teammates in Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood, the latter of which Houston signed during free agency. The Rockets are trying to form a new identity under first-year head coach Stephen Silas, but Harden's role in that remains to be unseen as he's adamant that he wants to be traded.