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Kevin McHale Explains His “Beefs” With James Harden

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The former Rockets head coach wanted Harden to play more defense and to get down the court more.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Former Houston Rockets head coach and rumored fashion icon Kevin McHale detailed the “beefs” he has with James Harden in a GQ interview published yesterday.

The anecdotal spat over defense is predictable. Harden put in little defensive effort in the past two seasons and the reported reason for McHale’s firing was the team’s defensive regression from the 2015 trip to the Western Conference Finals:

That’s no surprise. A legitimate complaint if anything.

The small surprise in the interview is McHale’s insistence that Harden should have gotten down the court more instead of bringing the ball up the floor.

“One of my biggest fights with James Harden was getting him out of the backcourt, trying to get him to run up the court, get out ahead, and we’ll throw it to you. When Harden’s leading the pack with numbers, he’s unguardable. You can’t stop him with a head of steam, but he wanted the ball in the backcourt, a traditional point guard spot, so we went round-and-round. D’Antoni just said the hell with that, take the ball where you want it. We’ll have Patrick Beverly run the floor. It was genius,” Kevin McHale, GQ 4/21/2017

Obviously this opinion was not shared by current head coach Mike D’Antoni who McHale credits. It just begs the question... if D’Antoni’s decision is such a genious move, why didn’t McHale try to embrace it?

I was an unabashed backer of McHale’s and thought his dismissal was knee-jerk and unceremonious after just 11 games last season. But McHale didn’t complain about the dismissal in the interview. But he did mention a level of dedication in 2016-2017 Harden was lacking last season:

“Last year, and I did get fired early in the season, James was out of shape and wasn’t playing well. You hope after a season like that, a guy will look himself in the mirror and say, "I need to be better,” Kevin McHale, GQ 4/21/2017.

I find the point guard comments strange. But can’t gripe with McHale’s other thoughts. The only legitimate complaint I can rouse from this interview is that McHale believe Westbrook should win the MVP over Harden.