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Ex-Rockets coach McHale: James Harden 'is not a leader'

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McHale has played under and alongside some of the very best leaders in NBA history, and doesn't think those traits are present in Houston Rockets All-Star James Harden, who he coached in Houston from 2012-15.

Discussing the Rockets and the difference new acquisition Chris Paul will make during a recent appearance on NBA TV's "Open Court," McHale threw shade at Harden by pointing out his supposed leadership intangibles - or lack thereof.

"I think it (adding Paul) makes them a much better team because you had James Harden with the ball, he’s fantastic with the ball - the guys got phenomenal vision, James can see all the passes and do everything but James is not a leader," McHale said, as transcribed by's Rahul Lal.

"He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens. Look, if James tells you ‘Chuck (Barkley), you’ve got to play better (defense).’ Are you going to listen to him? You’re kidding me. I lived through it, everybody in the locker room (shook their head)."

McHale was relieved of his duties as Rockets coach in November 2015 after the team opened the season with a 4-7 record.

With Mike D'Antoni manning the sidelines in 2016-17, Harden found a perfect balance between his scoring and passing, finishing second in points (29.1) and first in assists (11.2) per game while making the transition from shooting guard to point guard for the 55-win Rockets.

All McHale knows is the Harden he seemingly had the displeasure of coaching, though, so any changes the five-time All-Star has made behind closed doors are unbeknownst to him. Nonetheless, the Boston Celtics legend feels Paul's presence will be beneficial for Harden, as the new addition can take on leadership responsibilities.

"Chris Paul is going to push him, too. When (Harden) does that stab in the back after he doesn’t get a foul looking at the referee, Chris Paul is going to jump his butt and that’s going to make him a better player," McHale added. "I just think that Chris Paul will be good for James Harden. It will allow him to be what he is which is a phenomenal basketball player - not trying to lead a team, that’s just not his personality."

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