FRIDAY, 7:41am: Harden never demanded a coaching change or that Howard be traded, Rockets CEO Tad Brown insisted Thursday to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
THURSDAY, 2:37pm: James Harden “angled” for the Rockets to trade Dwight Howard before the deadline and pressured the team to fire Kevin McHale earlier this season, multiple league sources tell Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. However, multiple sources told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com that neither Harden nor Howard asked Rockets brass to change coaches, and Watkins portrays the idea of tension between Harden and Howard as overblown. Houston fired McHale after a 4-7 start but didn’t trade Howard, who’s poised to opt out and is widely expected to leave in free agency this summer, according to Berger.
“I don’t know what the perception is; the reality is we get along and we want to win,” Harden said to Watkins, speaking about Howard.
Harden has reportedly irked some of his teammates with his play and aloof nature at times, though he and Howard appeared upbeat following a players-only meeting that preceded McHale’s ouster. However, rumors have long followed the relationship between the Rockets stars. The respective camps for Harden and Howard went into the 2014 offseason “whispering” about their desire that the other be traded, according to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com. Howard has repeatedly denied a December 2015 report that he’s “extremely unhappy” playing a supporting role behind Harden, who takes nearly twice as many shots.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey said he never came close to trading Howard, but Morey and agent Dan Fegan were reportedly making a strong effort to find a new team for him in the hours leading up to last week’s deadline. Houston was in touch with the Mavericks, Bulls, Hawks, Celtics,Hornets, Heat, Bucks and Raptors about Howard as it sought to engage in trade talks about the former All-Star center, according to multiple reports, but the market for him was apparently soft.