The ultimate rating of Tuesday evening’s recreation between the Lakers and Rockets belied simply how completely Los Angeles dominated Houston.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. jumped out to a 35-14 benefit by the tip of the primary quarter and led by as many as 30 factors within the third on the best way to a 117-100 victory. The Rockets sat on their bench in despair. The Lakers hopped out of their seats to rejoice when James launched a nook 3-pointer and turned towards his bench whereas the ball was nonetheless within the air.

MORE: NBA followers react to Harden’s postgame bombshell

So when Harden arrived on the podium after the loss, his common demeanor and tone did not shock anybody. Houston has misplaced 4 of its previous 5 video games (3-6 total, 14th within the Western Convention), and Harden is averaging simply 17.four factors and taking pictures 37.eight % from the sector in that span.

“[We’re] simply not adequate,” Harden stated. “Clearly chemistry, talent-wise, simply the whole lot. And it was clear, like I stated, these previous couple of video games. They only, from the start of the sport, they have been simply aggressive. Veteran workforce, clearly, championship workforce, among the best groups that now we have on this league.”

The massive shock got here when Harden, who has been on the middle of commerce studies, rumors and hypothesis since November, adopted up these feedback by saying the quiet half out loud.

“I like this metropolis. I actually have performed the whole lot that I can,” Harden stated. “I imply, this example is loopy. It is one thing that I do not suppose may be mounted. Thanks.”

And with that, he walked away.

Harden has given the Rockets quite a bit. Since becoming a member of the workforce in 2012, Harden has scored greater than 18,000 factors and led Houston to eight consecutive playoff berths, together with Western Convention finals appearances in 2015 and 2018. He’s an eight-time All-Star and former MVP. He is not simply one of many NBA’s high scorers — he’s a complete offensive system. 

However here is the factor: Harden hasn’t performed the whole lot that he can.

He did not present up for coaching camp on time. He flouted the league’s COVID-19 protocols by partying maskless in a number of cities. He compelled Stephen Silas to reply questions on his standing quite than his first marketing campaign as an NBA head coach. He is not near being in recreation form. He would not appear eager about trying to make a connection along with his teammates, particularly Rockets guard John Wall.

“I believe it has been a little bit rocky,” Wall stated of his relationship with Harden. “Cannot lie about that. I do not suppose it has been the most effective it might be, to be trustworthy. That is all I actually may say.”

Houston does bear some duty on this state of affairs. The Rockets’ tradition has been, as a former staffer advised ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “No matter James desires.” Superstars at all times maintain a good quantity of energy and affect with their organizations, however Houston tipped the scales too far.

That is additionally  motive why Harden should not be appearing this fashion. The Rockets have bent over backward to accommodate him, firing coach Kevin McHale and buying and selling away Dwight Howard and Chris Paul as a result of Harden reportedly pushed for these strikes. Houston is solely asking the 31-year-old to be knowledgeable because it seeks an inexpensive commerce package deal.

If Harden had reported to coaching camp in a well timed trend and put his expertise on full show to start out the season, he would not have simply been doing the suitable factor for the Rockets. Commerce suitors could have been extra keen to drag the set off after seeing a motivated Harden persistently drop 30-plus factors on his opponents. The asking value would have gone up. He could be a lot nearer to his purpose of leaving Houston. He’s solely hurting himself.

Harden and the Rockets seem to have reached a breaking level, however issues did not have to finish this fashion. It did not need to get this ugly. Regardless of what Harden says, he may have performed extra.