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James Harden takes a page out of Dwight Howard's book, dubs rest of teammates 'role players'

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers
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May 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after getting his third foul against Portland Trail Blazers in the first half in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. (Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports)

The Houston Rockets, thus far, whiffed on what once seemed a promising summer, and naturally the team's two flawed All-Stars have managed to sandwich a pair of unfortunate comments around the public relations pickle that has befallen general manager Daryl Morey upon failing to land a third star in free agency.

While the on-court skills of Dwight Howard and James Harden complement each other well — a defensive stalwart with finite offensive weapons and an offensive virtuoso with limited defensive skills — neither has proven too complimentary of any Houston teammate not named Howard or Harden.

In an interview with The Philippine Star, Harden is the latest to make news with an unfortunate statement.

“Dwight (Howard) and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets,” said Harden. “The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”

Certainly since the departure of Chandler Parsons to the Mavericks and to some degree following the trades of Omer Asik to the Pelicans and Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, that statement may very well be true (however much Trevor Ariza may disagree), but Harden would be wise to keep those feelings to himself.

Has he learned nothing from Howard, who's made a history of bashing his teammates publicly? Just last week, the eight-time All-Star said of Parsons' absence, "It won't affect us at all" — a ridiculous statement to make about a still improving 25-year-old wing who commanded eight figures in free agency.

While Harden has generally let actions explain his faith in fellow teammates, succumbing to Hero Ball and even ignoring Lin at times last season, Howard has been more outspoken. Upon leaving the Magic for Los Angeles, he later said of his Magic mates, "My team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted." That slip of the tongue came around the same time he critized his new "friends" on the Lakers.

As a result, former teammates like Jameer Nelson, who just joined the Mavericks and may have been a nice fit in Houston, haven't taken too kindly to Howard's approach in the past. And he wonders why Lakers legends Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson never accepted him in L.A.

However Harden and Howard feel about the current cast of Rockets characters privately, they'd be better off bolstering the value of those "role players" publicly. That might actually help Morey land that elusive third star, especially one who might be dubious of those two as contender-worthy teammates themselves.

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