Outside of their back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, the Houston Rockets have always had the stigma of a team that is immensely talented, but lacks the heart and desire to achieve their ultimate goal.
One of the biggest reasons why the Rockets always seems to melt under the hot glow of expectations is that their star players have not really acted like leaders. Tracy McGrady is the only Rocket player since Hakeem Olajuwon to come close to matching leadership expectations. But Yao Ming was never really a leader, and neither was Steve Francis. And if anyone thought that Kevin Martin was a leader seriously needs to get their head checked.
With James Harden and Dwight Howard now “leading” this current crew of Rockets, it looks like that trend is going to continue. On Friday, Donatas Motiejunas, a member of the Rockets, spoke to a Lithuanian reporter about his time with the Rockets and how he meshed with the teams superstars. He said about Harden and Howard:
“Hi & bye. They even eat separately from the team. Usually in some fast food place.”
Does that sound like leaders to you? When I first read the story, I could not help but think that Harden and Howard’s lack of leadership skills was the main reason why Chris Bosh decided to stay with the Miami Heat.
Whether the comment was taken out of context or not, this is not a good look for Harden, Howard and the Rockets in general. That statement reeks of two players who are only in it to compile stats and cash checks. Maybe this is why Howard longed so hard to go to Houston. He knew that he would not have to grow up and become a leader there.
Until I see differently, Harden and Howard are not the type of players you want to build your team around. One refuses to play defense (Harden) and the other refuses to grow up (Howard). Add that together, plus their nonchalant attitudes to their teammates, and you have all the makings of a team that is more content on making the playoffs than competing for championships.
Maybe it’s time for us to admit it — the Rockets are pretenders, not contenders.