Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – The Houston Rockets are exceeding expectations this year under new head coach Mike D’Antoni. Thanks in large part to the play of James Harden in D’Antoni’s system.  Last year Kevin McHale was fired after just 11 games with the Rockets. The former Rockets head coach and NBA Hall of Famer joined In The Loop on Wednesday on SportsRadio 610 and he believes James can improve but is trying to be a better leader for the team.

“I think he’s really trying I really do believe he is,” McHale said of Harden’s Leadership before pausing and continuing on more generally about leadership. “Leadership is a strange thing…I think you’re kind of born with the leadership.  I think there is part of you that when things get really bad adn the tide is turning against you, I don’t know what you say, but you might not say a thing. But you go out there with a resolve that people see and you turn the tide back.

“As a leader, you walk out there and might say, simple as, ‘hey we’ve got to play better guy. Everyone guard their own damn man.’ And then you walk out there and then you do it and the tide follows you. I don’t know if you can teach that. I think James is trying and getting better.”


Harden is trying to be a bigger leader for this team, but his stats are leading the team to a top seed in the Western Conference and McHale praised his replacement for the job he’s done.

“D’Antoni has done a really good job there,” McHale told In The Loop. “I think giving James (Harden) the ball on a steady basis, saying ‘hey you’re our point guard,’ because I think when I was there with James he had the ball a lot. We tried to get him running the wings get him out and get him away from the ball because he was going to get the ball in his hands. (Harden) fought that a little bit. I think D’Antoni just looked at stuff and said ‘I’m not going fight it.'”

The ball in Harden’s hands has been what has led the Rockets to their season and his leading MVP candidacy.  That offense, led by Harden, is what McHale says the Rockets will live and die by.

“They can beat anybody,” said McHale. “The thing with the Rockets is they are going to beat you, kinda, with their offense. They are reliant on making shots and spacing. And they are very good at that. I can see them beating anybody, honestly, but they’re going to have to make a lot of shots.

“When Houston is making shots and scoring and getting a little stretch on you, getting a little lead, six, seven, eight points, you get nervous as an opposing team because you have to keep scoring to stay with them. Offensive pressure is real and D’Antoni has always put offensive pressure on the opposing team and that is what the Rockets do.”





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