Think about the best players in the NBA: who all would be in your top 10? One player that comes to my mind is Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden. In 2011-2012 Harden was the best Sixth Man in the league for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged 16.8 points per game and was considered one of the best players on the team.
In the offseason of 2012, Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets because of the Thunder’s fear of losing him in free agency the next offseason. He signed an extension to be locked up with Houston for the future and teamed up with solid, underrated second year player Chandler Parsons. The two together helped the Rockets’ win total improve by 11 games, leading to a playoff berth. Harden’s points jumped to 25.9 per game, while Parsons averaged a solid 15.5 points per game, proving that he was one of the Rockets’ best players.
In 2013, the Rockets signed one of the best centers in the league, Dwight Howard. Howard teamed up with Harden and Parsons and helped the team’s win total jump up by 9 games. They were the 4th seed in the Western Conference, and Howard, Harden, and Parsons all had great individual statistics that season.
This offseason has not been as productive for the Rockets as the past two. They tried to sign a strong player in Gordon Hayward and struck out. They met with LeBron James’ agent; LeBron did not show any interest at all. Lastly, they were almost 100% sure that Chris Bosh was going to sign with the team. They struck out there as well while they watched him re-sign with the Miami Heat. The biggest mistake that the Rockets have made this offseason is being made out to be no big deal: they let Chandler Parsons slip away to their cross-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks.
Harden is one of the ones that is making the loss of Parsons seem to be “no big deal.” When talking to The Philippine Star, Harden said, “Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.” To many this seems like a shot at Parsons, and wrongfully so.
Parsons, however, took Harden’s comments that way and let his opinion be know when speaking in a radio interview with Jay Mohr: “That’s a pretty ridiculous statement if he meant that. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Dallas. I’m ready for the next step. I’m ready for a bigger role and I’m ready for more leadership. If anyone should understand that, it should be James because he was in the same situation in Oklahoma City then he got his chance to come to Houston and shine.”
Parsons’ comments showed that he did not feel respected by Harden in Houston. Harden is clearly Houston’s best player but he did not respect Parsons’ talent. When Parsons said, “If anyone should understand that, it should be James,” he brings up the point that Harden was in his shoes two seasons ago in Oklahoma City.
If Harden thinks Parsons was just a role player he should have compared the statistics. By saying that, Harden is saying that he himself was a role player in Oklahoma City, next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In Harden’s last season with the Thunder (his third season overall) he averaged 16.8 points per game, 3.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. In Parsons’ last season with the Rockets (his third overall) he averaged 16.6 points per game, 4.0 assists per game, and 5.5 rebounds per game. Parsons had better overall statistics than Harden.
So with Houston losing Parsons’ production I believe that their win total will decrease. With Dallas gaining Parsons I believe that they will pass up Houston in the Western Conference standings. With more of a role in the offense, more respect, and playing under a great coach in Rick Carlisle, Parsons has a chance to become one of the top all-around players in the league. Parsons’ rise to stardom will make Harden eat his words and make him wish that they would have never lost him.
What will be next for Houston though? With Harden being their best player and he saying that he and Dwight are the “corner stones” of the franchise, they need to build a team around them. Whether through free agency or trades, their front office needs to be hard at work. If they don’t, there will be another reason for Harden’s comments to look, in Parsons’ words, “ridiculous.”
Saying Dwight Howard is a cornerstone of the Rockets is a strong enough statement to say already. If the Rockets aren’t in title contention by the end of Howard’s contract he will be packing up and joining another team. He left when things were rough in Orlando, he left when things were rough in Los Angeles, and he will leave again if things are rough in Houston. Saying a player that has been on three different teams in the past three seasons, and one that has a diva attitude like Howard, is a cornerstone of your franchise is a very brave statement.
So what did we learn today? We learned that James Harden may eat his words when the Dallas Mavericks are better than the Houston Rockets next season. He also will eat his words when he watches Chandler Parsons rise to stardom. Lastly if the Rockets don’t get any more talented players then Dwight Howard will pack up and leave to make Harden the only “cornerstone” on the team. So then Harden will eat his words yet again.
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