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Harden fires back at McHale over leadership knock: 'He's a clown'

Al Bello / Getty Images Sport / Getty

James Harden isn't going to sit back while his former coach drags his name through the mud.

The Houston Rockets shooting guard did not appreciate Kevin McHale going on NBA TV and saying he's "not a leader."

"He's a clown, honestly," Harden told reporters Saturday of his coach from 2012-15. "I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I tried to lead this team every single day since I stepped foot here in Houston.

"But to go out here and downplay my name when honestly he's never taught me anything to be a leader. But I've done a great job. The organization, my coaches, you can ask any of those guys how I've worked extremely hard every single day. ...

"To go out here and downplay my name like that, it shows his character. I usually don't go back and forth on social media with anybody or with interviews, but I'm going to stand up for myself."

Asked if there's bitterness lingering from McHale's stint in Houston, which ended with his firing early in 2015-16, Harden replied:

"For sure. And I had nothing to do with it. I'm just here to do my job and compete at the highest level that I can."

The five-time All-Star elaborated on his comment about McHale's character, suggesting the Hall of Famer sang a different tune when they spoke in person. Harden indicated that McHale used to call him a great player and said he felt lucky to be part of the process.

Harden's current coach, Mike D'Antoni, stood up for him.

"All I can do is talk about my experience, and he's been unbelievably great," D'Antoni told reporters, as quoted by ESPN's Tim MacMahon.

"Obviously I got Coach of the Year last year because of him and the other 10 guys on the team. He's been great with everything I asked. I asked a lot of him last year. I asked him to be the point guard, I asked him to talk in D, I asked a lot of things and he responded great.

"We had great chemistry. He's the first one to get them all together in the summer time or take them out during the year to keep the team together. So I didn't see it. He's been great for me."

Harden's coming off his best year yet, putting up 29.1 points, a league-leading 11.2 dimes, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game for the Rockets and finishing second in MVP voting.

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