Having two max players should make it easier to land a third in NBA free agency. In theory.

But what about Dwight Howard and James Harden? What’s their impact on the Rockets’ team-building?

Grantland’s Zach Lowe suggests it’s less than good:

One last word on (Chris) Bosh: He was intrigued by Houston, but he’s 30, he’s super-smart, and he just spent four years playing with two like-minded stars on an older roster for an organization that takes basketball craft seriously.

The Rockets do, too, but there is an undercurrent around the league that Harden and Howard don’t represent the most appealing duo of teammates for any star who has lived within ultraserious professionalism.

Sounds familiar.

And after Bosh spurned the Rockets in an eleventh-hour change-of-heart to return to the Miami Heat, and with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony having never really considered Houston much, if at all, despite it having two top-15 players and a max contract slot, the question is worth wondering:

Are Howard and Harden hurting Houston’s chances on the free agent market?

Both players have their limits on the floor — Howard has a poor mid-range shot and struggles with his back to the basket, and Harden could be better as a passer and defender, to say the least.

But their reputations for how they conduct themselves off the hardwood are as troublesome.

Harden last postseason made headlines for calling a reporter a “weirdo.” (This, by the way, after the reporter criticized the Rockets’ sorry effort on the defensive end in the Portland series.) Howard has feuded with teammates, milked injuries and arguably played his departure from the Magic and Lakers exponentially worse than LeBron James did Cleveland.

Present or past, real or perceived, track records matter. And with GM Daryl Morey’s stated intentions of letting Chandler Parsons, who Morey implied wasn’t a max player, go in restricted free agency to the Dallas Mavericks to give Houston the flexibility to land the third leg of a championship-caliber Big 3, it’s worth wondering if Nos. 1 and 2 are wrenches in that plan.



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