Mike D'Antoni strongly refutes criticism of James Harden's leadership qualities

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Former Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale aimed a stinging criticism in the direction of James Harden recently by claiming "he's not a leader".

The Hall of Famer spent five years with the Rockets before being fired in 2015 and claimed that the superstar guard didn't have the respect of his teammates as he only played on one end of the floor.

McHale was speaking on an episode of 'Open Court' on NBA TV and said that the arrival of Chris Paul in Houston will help Harden to improve on his leadership skills.

The All-Star unsurprisingly took exception to the comments and called his former coach a "clown" in an interview with ESPN.

Current Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni was also asked for his thoughts on his predecessor's sharp criticism of his star player.

"All I can do is talk about my experience, and he's been unbelievably great," D'Antoni told ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "Obviously, I got Coach of the Year last year because of him and the other 10 guys on the team."

D'Antoni moved Harden to the point guard position last year and asked him to run the team's offence as both their primary facilitator and scorer.

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'The Beard' reacted impressively to this responsibility with the best season of his career and narrowly missed out on the MVP award to Russell Westbrook due to his historic campaign.

The 28-year-old embraced his change of position and averaged a career-best 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game and led his team to the third-best record in the league.

"He's been great with everything I asked. I asked a lot of him last year," D'Antoni said. "I asked him to be the point guard. I asked him to talk in D. I asked a lot of things, and he responded great.

"We had great chemistry. He's the first one to get them all together in the summertime or take them out during the year to keep the team together. So I didn't see it. He's been great for me."

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McHale's comments can be viewed as him still feeling bitter about his firing after leading the franchise to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.

But Harden and the Rockets won't allow that to affect their focus for this year as they attempt to dethrone the Golden State Warriors with the addition of CP3.

They'll have an opportunity to lay down a marker and show they can go toe to toe with the defending champions as they visit Oracle Arena for their opening night encounter.

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