Houston Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins has delivered a scathing response to James Harden‘s criticism of the franchise, describing his behavior as disrespectful to his teammates and making it clear the disgruntled superstar won’t be particularly missed in Houston.
On Wednesday, the Rockets agreed to trade the eight-time All-Star to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster deal that also involved the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers. The trade ended months of speculation over Harden’s future and came less than a day after the 2018 NBA MVP had publicly chastised the Rockets for not being good enough after a 117-100 home loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Cousins, who signed for the Rockets in the offseason, acknowledged Harden was entitled to his opinion but said the outburst was disrespectful.
“Obviously, it’s disrespectful, but everybody has a right to their opinion. We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions.
“This is the nasty part of the business that kind of gets swept under the rug.”
In his rant on Tuesday night, Harden lamented that the Rockets were not even close to the Lakers and were nowhere near good enough “chemistry, talent-wise, just everything.”
Cousins pushed back, however, suggesting Harden should have aimed his anger at the franchise instead of his teammates.
“He can feel however he wants to feel about the organization or whatever his current situation is, but the other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him.
“So for us to be on the receiving end of some of the disrespectful comments and antics, it’s completely unfair to us. […] We’ve done nothing to him. We’ve only showed up to work, just like everybody else, and came in ready to work. So like I said, it’s completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room.”
Rumors of Harden being unhappy in Houston have swirled around for months.
In November, the 31-year-old opted not to become the first player in NBA history to earn $50 million a year, turning down the Rockets’ offer to sign the maximum allowable extension that would have paid him $103 million over two years.
He subsequently held out of the beginning of training camp and made clear to the Rockets that he wanted to be traded.
Speaking on Wednesday, Cousins indicated that Harden’s behavior during the offseason had also been an issue.
“The disrespect [from Harden] started way before any interview,” he said.
“Just the approach to the training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court. The disrespect started way before.
“This isn’t something that all of a sudden happened last night. But with that being said, like I said, this is the nasty part of the business. It is what it is.”
The trade taking Harden to the Nets, his preferred destination all along, involved seven players and a bounty of draft picks. Brooklyn sent guard Caris LeVert, small forward Rodions Kurucs and the 2022, 2024 and 2026 unprotected first-round picks, plus pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027 to Houston in exchange for Harden.
The Rockets also received Cleveland’s first-round 2022 picks via the Milwaukee Bucks, before flipping LeVert to the Indiana Pacers along with a 2023 second-round pick in exchange for All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. Center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince, meanwhile, headed from the Nets to the Cavs, while Cleveland sent guard Dante Exum to Houston.
Harden has not scored more than 20 points in the past four games, the longest stretch of its kind since his final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.
He averages 17.4 points over his last five appearances in January. By contrast, he averaged 28.2 points per game in his worst month last season.
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