Rockets Notes: Harden, Wall, Oladipo, Gordon

The tensions that boiled over in Houston this week between James Harden and his teammates have been building for weeks, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. League sources tell O’Connor that there was animosity between Harden and John Wall from the time Wall was traded to the Rockets in early December. Wall still views himself as a franchise player and he believed Harden was sabotaging the team with his efforts to get traded.

Hard feelings continued to grow as Harden reported late for training camp and the team struggled to a 3-6 start. After a second consecutive blowout loss to the Lakers Tuesday night, Harden declared the Rockets weren’t “good enough” to compete with the league’s top teams, and Wall and DeMarcus Cousins fired back angry responses.

Those two players are the leaders in Houston now, but they both have checkered pasts regarding team chemistry and are coming off major injuries, O’Connor notes. Wall’s future with the Rockets seems secure as he’s under contract for more than $91MM over the next two seasons. However, Cousins – who is playing only 13.4 minutes per night and shooting just 35.6% from the field – is on a veteran’s minimum deal that doesn’t become fully guaranteed until February 27.

There’s more from Houston:

  • Victor Oladipo may not have a long-term future with the team, O’Connor writes in the same story. Sources tell O’Connor that Oladipo, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, would prefer to end up with the Heat. The Rockets can trade their new guard at any time, but he cannot be aggregated with other salaries until March 5, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. This year’s trade deadline is March 25.
  • Eric Gordon doesn’t believe Harden intended to insult his teammates with his comments after Tuesday’s game, according to Mark Berman of KRIV in Houston (video link). “For me knowing him personally I don’t think he really meant it as far as to really disrespect the team,” Gordon said. “That’s just from me. He wanted a different situation. He’s kind of shown that and he said it. I don’t think he really meant to disrespect the players.”
  • With Harden’s salary off the books, the Rockets could choose to operate below the cap next season, suggests John Hollinger of The Athletic. He notes that the team can easily get to $20MM under next year’s cap number, and possibly more if Gordon is traded too.
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