CEO denies reports of James Harden, Dwight Howard demands

PORTLAND, Ore.-- Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown was firm in the franchise's denial that star guard James Harden asked for coach Kevin McHale to be fired during a rare interview with Rockets beat reporters on Thursday.

CBS Sports reported Harden pushed the Rockets front office to fire McHale, who was let go just 11 games into the season with a 4-7 mark. Harden, according to the report, also asked general manager Daryl Morey to trade center Dwight Howard, something the Rockets failed to do.

"I can tell you unequivocally, being part of that [front-office] team, those things have never happened," Brown said prior to the Rockets' 119-105 comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers. "That's frustrating, and, for whatever reason, it's been a constant throughout this season. As we struggle and as we continue to struggle a little bit on the court, trying to get things to where we want them to be, that people have continued to take shots at our guys, take shots at our team, with unnamed sources being the ones who routinely provide that information."

Brown said the front-office dynamic involving any firing goes through owner Leslie Alexander, himself and Morey.

The Rockets have been disappointing the entire season, currently posting a 29-29 mark and with a half-game for the West's eighth and final playoff spot.

Brown denied an NBA.com report stating Howard and Harden asked for each other to be traded two seasons ago after Morey told ESPN the same last week.

After reaching the conference finals last season, the Rockets have been shaken by inconsistency despite the strong play of Harden, who is second in the league with 28.6 points per game.

Houston did make an effort to trade Howard, with the goal of getting a first-round pick for him. When deals failed to achieve this, Morey was able to move Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Detroit Pistons for a first-round pick. Motiejunas failed his physical, and the trade was later rescinded.

During a three-day period in Phoenix, Howard and Harden spent time together talking about fixing the team's problems. After the trade deadline, the Rockets beat the Phoenix Suns with a strong defensive effort. Players said the win showed they wanted to play for each other and reach the postseason.

On Tuesday night, Houston fell from the eighth seed with a 117-114 overtime loss at the Utah Jazz.

On Thursday, the CBS report apparently frustrated the Rockets from a management standpoint regarding rumors about the team.

"It's disappointing and it's bothersome from the standpoint of, James doesn't deserve this, Dwight doesn't deserve," Brown said. "This, whether it be James coming in demanding to have Dwight traded -- there was an article in the last week where supposedly both James and Dwight came to management and they both wanted each other traded -- that never happened. Where James supposedly came in and demanded there be a coaching change -- that never happened. Dwight came in and said he wanted to be traded -- that never happened. These things comes up and take a life of their own."