James Harden's time in Houston might be coming to an end. With that in mind, former Rockets organization members are a little more forthcoming about the permissive culture that formed around the All-Star. According to a new report from ESPN, Harden was frequently granted extra days off and was allowed to charter private jets to go party in Las Vegas.
The report from ESPN's Tim MacMahon cites several anonymous coaches and staffers to paint a picture of a team built entirely around keeping Harden happy. They say that Harden was allowed to ditch practices to recover from days of partying. Harden was reportedly allowed to jet off in season during three-day breaks to live it up in Las Vegas.
The team would also reportedly stay extra nights in cities that Harden had an affinity for, like Los Angeles and Phoenix.
"We knew who the boss of the organization was," a former Rockets assistant coach told ESPN. "That's just part of what the deal was when you go to Houston. The players, coaches, GM, owner all know. I don't blame James. I blame the organization. It's not his fault. He did what they allowed him to do."
Another former coach made the equation even more explicit, noting that Harden was allowed to act out off the court because his performance remained elite on it.
"If they have multiple days off, everybody knows: James is going to fly somewhere else and party," the anonymous member of last season's staff told ESPN. "But he's going to come back and have a 50-point triple-double, so they're OK with it."
The casual team atmosphere and permissiveness of Harden's actions reportedly rankled Russell Westbrook. The piece describes one incident int he Bubble, in which Harden's tardiness rankled Westbrook.
Though the team paid a hefty sum to bring him in to Houston in search of a championship, they dealt the unhappy star to Washington in the off-season.
Harden caused a stir recently when he was seen in Las Vegas and Atlanta flouting COVID protocols instead of at Rockets training camp. On Wednesday, Harden faced the media for the first time since last season, and was asked about why he skipped the start of training camp.
When he was asked about requesting a trade, Harden said, “Right now I’m just focused on being here.”