HOUSTON, you have a problem.
After a promising 2014-15 season when they reached the Western Conference Finals, the Houston Rockets have yet to “blast off” this current campaign with an underachieving 12-14 start.
It comes as no surprise that the disappointing record has reportedly led to some tension in the locker room.
A report by Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com claimed the Rockets big man “is extremely unhappy in Houston playing second fiddle to alpha dog James Harden."
A veteran reporter who used to cover the NBA for ESPN and the Associated Press, Sheridan even fueled speculations about the Rockets trading Howard, possibly to the Miami Heat for center Hassan Whiteside who averages 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks this season.
However, the 30-year-old Howard, who will become a free agent at season's end, was quick to deny the report.
"I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. People make up lies and rumors," Howard told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
"I'm trying to get these guys to play better and myself to play better. People say what they got to say to get a story out," added Howard, who finished with only four points and four boards while plagued with foul trouble in Wednesday's loss to the Sacramento Kings.
Howard has had a history of animosity with star teammates, the most notable being his run-in with Kobe Bryant when the two played with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13. The big man never got to establish chemistry with the five-time NBA champion and decided to sign with the Rockets as a free agent the following season.
Injury has since plagued Howard at this point his career and he has since tried to regain the form that made him the centerpiece of several Orlando Magic squads before he demanded to be traded.
In Houston, the offense revolves around Harden who shoots 20 times per game. Howard’s eight shots per game places him fifth behind Trevor Ariza, Marcus Thornton and Terrence Jones. The eight-time All-Star, however, has done so at an efficient 60.1 percent clip.
Howard is averaging 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. His scoring is his lowest since his rookie season 12 years ago.