NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal has slammed James Harden following his move from Houston to Brooklyn yesterday.
Harden did everything in his power to force a trade out of the Rockets, including not showing up to pre-season training, partying in direct violation of league COVID protocols, gaining weight and speaking of his desire to leave in the media.
With the situation untenable and his teammates frustrated, Houston made the call to move Harden to the Nets, in exchange for four unprotected first round picks and four rights to swap picks.
Cleveland and Indiana were also part of the deal, with the Rockets landing former All-Star Victor Oladipo, while Brooklyn gave up Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
Harden’s tenure in Houston, as Shaq points out, can be summed up by three players. The Rockets did everything in their power to build a championship team around the 2018 NBA MVP, trading for All-Stars Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook in three different intervals.
In all three instances, Harden asked for the player to be brought in and subsequently asked for them to be traded away.
In the Paul case, the Rockets also had to trade away draft picks to Oklahoma City in order to bring in Westbrook. Paul would go on to outplay Westbrook the following year, rubbing salt in the wounds of that deal.
Taking everything into account, O’Neal did not hold back in his assessment of the Harden era in Houston.
“When you say you gave the city your all, that ain’t true,” Shaq told NBA on TNT.
“You asked for Dwight Howard, (they) gave him to you, didn’t work out. You asked for Chris Paul (they) gave him to you. You asked for some shooters, (they) gave it to you. (You) asked for Russell Westbrook, your home boy from little league, (they) give him to you and it didn’t work out.
“And when you say ‘I gave you everything’, I say no you didn’t because the last five games when it came to (playoff) elimination, you’re one (win) and four (losses), you’re shooting 41 per cent, 24 per cent from three, 32 assists and 27 turnovers.
“I used to be like James. I used to come home and complain ‘man he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that’ and my father, rest in piece, would say ‘well what the hell did you do?’
“(Harden) ain’t done nothing. He hasn’t stepped up when he was supposed to step up.
“When you’re the man and you make $30 or $40 million a year, it’s a big responsibility. (Charles Barkley) had said this many times, when you’re the man, you’ve got a big responsibility and it’s all on you.
“So when it was time to show up, he ain’t shown up. So I know a lot of people in Houston are glad he’s gone.”
The Nets will have to put their star trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving together fast, with the shortened season not giving them the usual 82 games to build chemistry.
On top of that, Irving is currently away from the team and was spotted at his sister’s 30th birthday without a mask, violating the league’s COVID protocols.
Despite that, O’Neal said if Brooklyn doesn’t get it together and win the championship this year, then they have failed.
“Now (Harden’s) got his little super team. He’s got to win this year. If he doesn’t win it this year, it’s a bust. Period,” he said.
It’s unclear when we will see the trio together for the first time, given Irving’s absence.
Durant has returned from a torn Achilles and looks as dominant as ever, while Harden will need to work himself into playing shape after a poor start to the season.