Last weekend, James Harden was the subject of some harsh criticism by his former head coach Kevin McHale.
"James can see all the passes and do everything, but James is not a leader," McHale said in an appearance on NBATV. "He tried being a leader last year, tried doing all that stuff. I think Chris Paul is going to help him just kind of get back into just being able to hoop and play and stuff like that.”
"On every team, you have to have a voice,” McHale continued. “On every team, you have to have somebody that when they say something, people listen. Like if James tells you, 'You've got to play better D,' are you going to listen to him? I lived through it. Believe me, everybody in the locker room did this [put their head down with their hand on their forehead].' Every time he mentioned defense, everybody would put their head down.”
Harden didn’t let those words sink in for very long, as he responded back in a very direct and harsh way.
"He's a clown, honestly," Harden told reporters after hearing McHale’s comments. "I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I've tried to lead this team every day since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go on air and just downplay my name, when honestly he's never taught me anything to be a leader.”
The MVP runner-up continued, “But I've done a great job. The organization, my coaches, you can ask any of those guys how I've worked extremely hard every single day to better [myself], obviously as a basketball player, but be a leader as well. To go on air and downplay my name like that, it just shows his character. I usually don't go back and forth on social media with anybody or with interviews, but I'm going to stand up for myself, and there it is. But you just don't go and do that. It shows what type of person he is.”
A few days passed, but McHale continued the feud on Friday night in an appearance on TNT.
"Calling me names is not going to change my opinion as to what I saw when I was there," McHale said. "It's hard to have credibility if you don't play defense.”
The coach was quick to compliment Harden’s basketball abilities, but went into great detail explaining what he views true leadership as.
"[Harden] is a hell of a basketball player, he really is," McHale said. "And to James' credit, I will say this: He organizes guys in the summer. He does a lot of stuff. He does a lot of those things. When I was talking more about leadership is ... it's a tie game at half. It's a playoff game, or you're playing another team that's tough and rumble, and they're going to get after you. And all of a sudden, with four minutes to go in the third, you're down nine. They're getting every loose ball, they're getting every rebound, they're doing all this stuff. It's not about skill at that point. It's about will. I gotta impose my will on you. James at that point gets a little bit ... that's not his personality.”
It remains to be seen if Harden decides to respond to these latest comments. With the regular season rapidly approaching, he might want to distance himself from any drama.