I’m the cornerstone of this blog. Everyone else is a role writer.

See what I did there? Couldn’t resist! Now that everyone has had a chance to simmer down slightly, let’s attempt to have a somewhat rational conversation about what has recently transpired.

Harden’s quote

He shouldn’t have said it. Regardless of how truthful the statement is, almost all people would agree that it was better left unsaid. Human beings are fascinating and fickle creatures. For some reason we can be perfectly content with knowing something, but blow a gasket when someone has the temerity to say what we all know. When deconstructed, this behavior seems strange, even hypocritical. Nevertheless, for the purposes of maintaining relationships, it is a social and professional code to which everyone adheres.

For instance, your boss is more important to your organization than you are. He just is. The CEO of your organization is more important than your boss, and definitely more important than you. Every person in your company shares this opinion. No one is fooling themselves into thinking otherwise. However, the CEO is unlikely to publicly announce his/her more important position relative to you. He/she will not send an all staff e-mail proclaiming that he/she is the most important person in the company and that everyone else less important. Nor will the CEO tell anyone this in person. Doing so makes his/her subordinates think poorly of him/her and damages the morale of the company. In fact, most people in such positions will go out of their way to appear humble and “like everyone else.” CEOs might, for instance, work with their subordinates in completing some menial task such as setting up or cleaning up.

Similarly, the most attractive person in a group of friends is not going to tell everyone else that he/she is the most attractive, even though everyone knows. The smartest student in a group is not going to tell everyone else that he/she is the smartest, even though everyone knows. And the best player on a basketball team is not going to tell his teammates that he is the best, even though everyone knows. Except that he did. Oops.

The back-patting side of me feels vindicated because I actually wrote about this exact scenario, referencing when my former boss told our then office that he was a visionary while the rest of us were worker bees. Regarding the Rockets’ “inferior” players, I wrote, “They don’t feel like their roles are valued. They think their role is just to run around until the more important guy isn’t tired any more.” Harden’s quote, unfortunately, seemed to dovetail with these sentiments perfectly, and it doesn’t speak well of the team’s chemistry.

All that being said, I still don’t think it’s a big deal. Far worse mistakes have been made in far worse contexts. Bruised egos have healed before. If anything, this might be the catalyst required for the team to directly address its issues related to its institutional culture.

Everyone hates the Houston Rockets

Not really. I completely understand that, through the lens of Houston Rockets fans, it can seem like the team is being attacked from all sides. That’s the inside-out perspective. However, the outside-in perspective is that… well, there just aren’t that many people looking in from the outside. This is a Google Trends chart for the Rockets, Howard, and Harden.


Click for a full-size version

The reference point for interest is when the Rockets lost Game 6 to the Trailblazers. Nothing in the past 90 days has come close to reaching that level of interest in the Rockets. Lin’s trade to the Lakers comes in second (for the Rockets), at not even 40% as much interest as Game 6. Howard’s episode with the underage woman created about 50% as much interest for himself as Game 6 did for the Rockets. And then we have Harden’s recent quote. You can see the very tiny bump it created at the very end of the chart, generating something like 10% of the interest for himself as Game 6 did for the Rockets. The attention the Rockets receiving matters to us, as insiders. But to outsiders, it’s just a blip.

I understand the feeling of camaraderie that being portrayed as an antagonist can create, and “nobody likes us” certainly has been an effective rallying cry for many organizations. But let’s not lose perspective, here. There’s enough spin out there in internet land; we don’t need to contribute to it.

About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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