Houston Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins blasted James Harden for being "disrespectful," saying that the disgruntled superstar's antics this season have been "completely unfair" to the rest of the players on the roster.
Cousins took his strong stance in a virtual media availability Wednesday before, according to sources, the Rockets traded Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster deal that also involves the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Prior to the trade, reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, the Rockets announced that Harden did not attend Wednesday's practice due to a mutual agreement with the franchise on the heels of his harsh comments following the previous night's blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harden, who had been pushing to be traded for months, declared that the Rockets "just aren't good enough" and that he doesn't think the situation "can be fixed," saying that he had "done everything I can" for the Rockets.
"Obviously, it's disrespectful, but everybody has a right to their opinion," Cousins said. "We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions.
"This is the nasty part of the business that kind of gets swept under the rug. You deal with some of these things. When guys are in positions of being franchise players or whatever the case may be, it's usually sometimes a nasty breakup."
Cousins, a four-time All-Star who signed a one-year deal for the veterans minimum after missing most of the previous two seasons because of a series of serious injuries, noted that Harden's postgame media session Tuesday night was a continuation of the former MVP's disrespectful conduct.
"Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court, the disrespect started way before [Tuesday night]," Cousins said. "This isn't something that all of the sudden happened last night, but with that being said, like I said, this is the nasty part of the business. So it is what it is."
Harden held out at the beginning of training camp, leaving the Rockets in limbo while he partied maskless in Atlanta and Las Vegas with rapper Lil Baby. After Harden reported several days late, he was required to test negative for COVID-19 for six consecutive days before being cleared to join team activities.
The missed practice time and preseason games were especially problematic considering the Rockets had several new core players and a first-year head coach in Stephen Silas, who was implementing new offensive and defensive systems.
Harden was sidelined again for four days and fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating the league's health and safety protocols after video surfaced of him attending a private indoor party days before the Rockets' scheduled season opener, which was postponed due to a lack of available players.
The Rockets have lost four of their last five games to fall to 3-6, and team sources have taken note of Harden's glaring lack of effort recently. He has averaged 17.4 points on 37.8% shooting in the stretch -- the lowest-scoring five-game span of his eight-plus year Rockets tenure -- and has routinely failed to run back in transition defense.
Sources told ESPN that several people in the Rockets organization were angered that Harden seemed to point the finger at others on Tuesday night without taking any accountability for his own poor performance.
"I just feel like it's a way about handling business," Cousins said. "He can feel however he wants to feel about the organization or whatever his current situation is, but the other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him. For us to be on the receiving end of some of the disrespectful comments and antics, it's completely unfair to us."
Cousins said he was "not happy with the drama at all" and was trying to get his teammates to focus only on the things within their control.
"We know what our mindset is coming in every day," Cousins said. "We want to come in and work, get better, lead this younger group. Regardless of what's going on with the team, the guys that are showing up, that are committed, that are bought in to the task at hand, we're going to go to war with those guys. Whatever those results are, we're going to live with it. We're going to leave it all on the floor and whatever happens, happens."
Asked if he could play with Harden again if he wasn't immediately traded, Cousins said: "I don't really think that's a question for us. I think that's a question for him: Will he ever think he could play with us again? I don't know. Quite honestly, don't care."