James Harden and Dwight Howard had an, umm, up-and-down relationship during their three years together with the Houston Rockets. At one point, they gassed each other up to the point that it ostracized their teammates. At another, they reportedly tried to get each other traded. Together, they went through the firing of Kevin McHale, two playoff series losses to the Golden State Warriors, and the curse of the Based God.
You know the old saying, "There's something about that guy I don't like about myself"? That mantra always seemed to plague Harden and Howard. They were both ball-dominant. They were both attention seekers and, to an extent, prima donnas. It was tough for them to coexist.
By the end of Howard's time in Houston, public perception of Harden's abilities had declined significantly (largely due to his lack of defensive effort), and it was well known that many fans flat-out hated Howard. Basically, they needed to split—and they did. Howard signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks this summer.
Leading up to their reunion as opponents this Saturday, Harden spoke on his relationship with Howard and said, "we're cool."
“It didn’t bother me," Harden said, according to ESPN. "I know what the truth is, it’s no beef. We never got into a heated argument. It just didn’t work out.”
Harden is killing it so far this year, and he has publicly said the Rockets (3-2) have a better "vibe." However, he says the reason is not Howard's departure, but better preparation.
"That’s one of the reasons why we had training camp twice in the summer, so they can get comfortable quick and then when we came to training camp at the beginning of the season, guys will be playing a lot better,” Harden said. “That’s the reason for that.”
Howard is putting up 15.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game for the Hawks (3-1)—up nearly 2 points and 1 block per game from his numbers last year. Like Harden, he seems to be in a better place now.
So, what will we see when they greet each other at half-court Saturday? Probably nothing but love. Maybe a dap or a hug. Certainly it seems they'll at least acknowledge each other, unlike Harden's former teammates, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, last night.