Storyline: McHale-Harden Beef

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As much as Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni would rather not have the potential distraction that could come with former Rockets coach Kevin McHale’s criticism of James Harden’s leadership and Harden’s strong rebuttal, he said that dealing with those sorts of public issues has become part of the job. “It’s hard in modern society with … social media. It’s tough,” D’Antoni said. “It’s the new way of doing things and players have to deal with it. Coaches got to deal with it. We try to stay locked in as much as we can, knowing it’s not always going to be that way. And we just move on. “We’re using the same motto we used last year; ‘So what, what’s next.’ We were successful with that last year and we’ll try to do that again.”

“He’s a clown. Honestly,” Harden said. “I did anything and everything he asked me to do. I tried to lead this team since I stepped foot here in Houston. To go out there and downplay my name, 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 worked extremely hard every single day to better, obviously, be a basketball player, but to be a leader as well, defensively as well.”
2 months ago via ESPN

Tim MacMahon: Mike D’Antoni’s reaction to Kevin McHale saying James Harden is not a leader: “All I can do is talk about my experience, and he’s been unbelievably great. 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.”
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December 14, 2017 | 5:56 am EST Update
The league is watching the George situation very closely, and there’s a general belief that the Thunder will have to act if they haven’t significantly improved a few months from now (there are 29 games left before the deadline). With every George trade inquiry – whether it’s Presti on the call or recently returned front office mate/former Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who often handles such discussions for OKC – executives will be eager to exploit the situation.
In the ESPN Insider story on what each team’s fans should look for as trade season begins, Marks suggested moving Harris was about numbers… Harris’ salary in particular. The former second-round pick is having a career season and will be an unrestricted free agent in July. If Brooklyn is looking to optimize Harris’ trade value, the window is now. If they hold onto him past Feb. 8, the Nets will either have to sign Harris to a contract that starts in the $5-6 million range or lose him for nothing. Expect the Nets to receive a good second-round pick if Harris is moved.
Except Noel rejected the deal. Then in August, he fired his agent, Happy Walters, and replaced him with Rich Paul, whose playbook is to push for larger deals, and to hold off on signing long-term extensions until the player has the leverage, especially with guys as young as Noel (23). There were reports at the time that Noel was pushing for a max deal. A league source adamantly told B/R recently, though, that those reports were incorrect and that there was actually no dialogue whatsoever with the Mavericks after the agency change.
Storyline: Nerlens Noel Free Agency
Do he and Paul push for a trade after he returns from injury—and is there even a team willing to surrender assets for a player it knows could demand a $100 million deal this summer? It will be months before we get answers. For now, all Noel can do is sit back and wait. “I most definitely don’t regret anything. I’m not nervous because I know my abilities,” he told Bleacher Report. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what I can get on the court any time, day or night, and do. It’s simply getting the opportunity to show it.”
After coming up with a steal and hitting two free throws to ice the game in his first outing back in Indiana since being traded in June, Paul George walked off the floor Wednesday night and handed his shoes to the son of former teammate Monta Ellis. “I’m glad the circus is over with; now everybody can move on,” George said. “I understood what the environment was going to be coming into to tonight. My teammates did a great job of helping me battle this one tonight.”
4 hours ago via ESPN