Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty

Blathering goofus Kevin McHale waded back into the James Harden leadership beef last night, using a NBA on TNT segment to once again opine on the leadership qualities of his former star player. Watch the video below and see if you can spot the exact moment when McHale should’ve shut the hell up.

“Calling me names is not gonna change my opinions as to what I saw when I was there. It’s hard to have a lot of credibility if you don’t play good defense! It’s hard to say ‘let’s get stops’ when people are looking at you and saying ‘please stay in front of somebody.’

And my point was that he’s a hell of a basketball player, he really is. And to James’s credit, I will say this: He organizes guys in the summer, he does a lot of stuff. He does a lot of those things. When I was talking more about leadership is, it’s a tie game at half, and it’s a playoff game, or you’re playing another team that’s tough and rumble and they’re gonna get after you, and all of a sudden it’s four minutes to go in the third and you’re down nine. They’re getting every loose ball, they’re getting every rebound, they’re doing this stuff. It’s not about skill at this point—it’s about will. It’s like, I’ve gotta impose my will on you. James, at that point, he gets a little bit .... that’s not his personality. Chris Paul, in turn, will get in your face, go nose to nose with you, say ‘hey, let’s go,’ and I think that’s what you need. Draymond Green does a great job, whenever you need a spark, he’s out there jawing with somebody.

And that’s what I’m saying. James is a hell of a basketball player. Chris Paul will have that leadership in those times when [Harden] gets a little bit introverted, a little bit quiet, and you saw the game with the Spurs, he just gets a little bit, he gets passive. And Chris Paul is not like that, he’s more like we were, if things go bad lets go get ‘em.”

You could make a strong case that McHale should’ve shut the hell up after the very first sentence, or even before! Another good stopping point would’ve been after the second one, or the third one. I submit McHale should’ve shut the hell up immediately after “he does a lot of good things.” There! You have said your piece: It’s hard to have a lot of credibility when you don’t play good defense, but James Harden does a lot of good things to bring his team together, on top of being a hell of a basketball player. Good. Fair. Stops short of overstating the actual value of things like “jawing with somebody” or “getting nose to nose” with a teammate, while emphasizing that defensive effort is central to accountability. One way or another, he definitely should’ve stopped before “tough and rumble.”

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But because McHale is a blathering goofus, he raves onward about will versus skill, and introversion versus extroversion, and, umm, whether Draymond Green makes for a good example of leadership characteristics, until he has eventually whittled the concept of leadership all the way down to a series of confrontational outbursts, leaving the viewer to wonder what the exact value of those kinds of displays might really be. Is Chris Paul’s brand of leadership actually worth something? Have Chris Paul-led teams accomplished more than ones led by James Harden? Actually, they have not.

That’s obviously not entirely fair, as comparisons go. But that’s also what leaps to mind when a big old dummy starts going “this guy does this while this other guy does this, and clearly this is better than this.” I continue to maintain that both Harden and Paul are very good at basketball, and because they are very good their teams will be very good, and that a team that has both of them will be very, very good. On the other hand, this entire discussion will wind up looking very funny if Harden and Paul wind up taking swings at each other at some point this season. Paul is notoriously a relentless micromanager of teammates, and Harden is notoriously, you know, prone to lapses in concentration. It could happen!