Dwight Howard and James Harden are the undisputed superstars of the Houston Rockets. The guard-center combo combined for 43.7 PPG last season, while Harden lead the team in assists per game, and Howard paved the way in the paint, topping the stat sheets in rebounds per game and blocks per game. If the Rockets are going to make a deep run in the playoffs next season, it's going to happen on the shoulders of Harden and Howard.
However, according to a teammate of Howard and Harden's, all of this responsibility may be going to their heads. Rockets power forward Donatas Motiejunas characterized their behavior today when speaking with radio station ZIP FM:
D-Mo on relationships with Howard and Harden: "Hi & bye. They even eat separately from the team. Usually in some fast food place." #Rockets— Simonas Baranauskas (@LithuaniaBasket) August 8, 2014
It's not the most glowing endorsement for two players who are supposed to be the unquestioned leaders of the team. However, when you consider the recent comments the duo has made about the departure of former teammate Chandler Parsons, it may not be completely out-of-line with their perception of their roles with the team.
When asked whether the loss of Parsons would have an impact on the Houston Rockets next season, Howard said to the Associated Press, "It won't affect us at all. We have myself and James. We have the best center and the best two guard in the game on the same team. It's on us."
Harden echoed these comments later in the offseason, telling the Phillipine Star, "Dwight 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."
With these quotes in mind, it's hard not to see what Motiejunas is talking about. Clearly, and rightfully, Harden and Howard believe that they are the stars of the team. Again, this idea is indisputable. But, as we all know, a championship team has more than just on-the-court production to their name. It's about chemistry, cohesiveness, and a mutual respect between every teammate. It's about that guy like Mike Miller who catches fire in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals and chips in for a victory. Sure, guys like Miller and Shane Battier weren't the stars of the Miami Heat, but LeBron James loved playing with them, and he let them know how much he appreciated their contributions. Similarly, the San Antonio Spurs are essentially a giant family. You don't get the sense that Gregg Popovich has ever let his Big Three skip a team dinner.
Granted, this is just one person's perspective. Do the other members of the team feel this way? What would past teammates like Jeremy Lin or Chandler Parsons have to say about Motiejunas' comments? For the sake of Houston's championship hopes, Rockets fans better hope that the team chemistry isn't as bad as D-Mo would have you believe.
As Deadspin points out, Motiejunas has been misquoted. A more accurate translation of his comments, including one statement where he actually refers to Howard as "the soul of the team", is available below. This translation has been provided courtesy of Reddit user, CrUNcIN:
Q: When communicating with Howard and Harden, what do you talk about?
A: Basically I say just "Hello" and "Goodbye" to them.
Q: They don't invite you to barbecue or something?
A: No, they eat different food than me.
Q: What? Do you mean they eat oysters?
A: No... being European, I am more likely to eat oyster than them. They eat fast food.
Q: You once said to Dwight Howard "Catch me if you can". Did he reacted to this saying in any way?
A: Yeah, we sometimes make jokes about it during practice. He is a fun guy to be around in general. He is the soul of the team, someone who is fun to have in a locker room.
[via Bleacher Report]