Mike D’Antoni walked away from the Rockets as head coach less than 48 hours after their season ended, with no promise of a new job, and will be a Nets assistant coach next season under Steve Nash. Daryl Morey then fled Clutch City, in the midst of a coaching search, to take over the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office. And Houston didn’t hire either of the candidates Harden endorsed the strongest to replace D’Antoni: Tyronn Lue and John Lucas. Rival teams are thus already wondering: a.) how perturbed Harden is, and b.) how long before the Tilman Fertitta-owned Rockets seriously entertain trading him?
The Houston Rockets are not trying to trade James Harden. I repeat, the Houston Rockets are not trying to trade James Harden. There will be a statue erected of the Bearded One right on the corner of Polk Street and Jackson Street whenever he decides to hang his sneakers up. Harden single-handedly changed the trajectory of a franchise that was headed for years of mediocrity and is a big reason why they are still respected in league circles. More importantly, he’s still in his prime, has enjoyed a clean bill of health, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The Houston Rockets have zero interest in trading James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, something ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on the most recent Brian Windhorst Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip Real GM). “I’ve already been told with a few expletives included by somebody with the Rockets: ‘No, Daryl, James Harden for Ben Simmons is not happening. Don’t ask.'”
MacMahon then provided a huge caveat. In his mind, it is very much possible that Harden’s tenure in Houston comes to an end in the near future. However, this would be Harden spearheading the move and not the Rockets: “I think at this point it’s probably a year to year deal. If I’m speculating, I’m going to say that decision is more than likely made by James Harden instead of made by the Rockets. In other words, it could get to a point… And I don’t believe this is imminent. Again, I think it’s a year-to-year situation where at some point James Harden, who has tried repeatedly to pair with a superstar to give him a chance to a championship: first Dwight [Howard], then Chris Paul and now with Russ. If James Harden wants to pair with another superstar, he’s probably going to have to be the one to pack his bags. Is that next offseason? Is that the offseason after that? We’ll see. Obviously a lot of that depends on what happens with the Rockets over these next one or two years.”
John Clark: I’m hearing one of the reasons along with coaching that Sixers have a lot of interest in Mike D’Antoni is feeling with some in organization that he could help lure James Harden to Philly. Harden can become a free agent in 2 years and there is possibility of trade.
James Harden has been heavily criticized throughout his career for his playoff underperformance, but he's also a consistent MVP candidate who is solely responsible for the team being in position to contend every year. Would the Rockets actually consider moving on from Harden? "I wouldn't put it past [Daryl Morey] to consider moving James Harden," NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Do I think it is going to happen? I would not bet on it." "Daryl Morey is as transactional as any GM we have seen in the NBA," Haberstroh continued, "so I think this team that you see right now for Houston, is probably not going to be the team next season."
That's probably a step further than the Rockets are willing to go. Harden keeps the Rockets on national television and in the playoffs. Several teams believe Westbrook is available, but they've received no indication from Houston that Harden is anything but untouchable. "Everything should be on the table, including moving Harden," said the second Eastern Conference executive.
“I wouldn’t move Harden,” one Eastern Conference general managertold HoopsHype. “He’s still so good, and they’re too old right now to just start a rebuild unless you’re getting a Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic to rebuild around. I’d probably run it back in some shape or form, especially with next year being a compressed time period. I would keep all options open, but I wouldn’t be selling Harden just to the highest bidder. In the last two years, they easily could have won it all, so I don’t think it’s fair to panic yet if they lose. Now, if there’s a great deal out there, that’s a different story, but I still think it’s worth riding out one more year. If Westbrook is tradable, get it done.”
Hanging over all of this is Harden’s future. Nobody is talking about this yet, but Harden can become a free agent at the end of 2021-22. Paired with an aging, asset-free roster and an owner unwilling to spend on better help, when does he start looking at greener pastures? And if the Rockets are stuck with a dim future roster-wise, isn’t cashing in their Harden stock about the only way out?
February 5, 2023 | 7:31 pm EST Update
Adam Spolane: Rockets list Garrison Mathews questionable to play against the Kings tomorrow night with left big toe soreness, and Kevin Porter Jr will miss his 13th straight. No one else is on the injury report
Nets Daily: Trade will generate two trade exceptions for Nets, one of $5 million, another of $1.8 million that they can use at any point in next year. Trade also saves Joe Tsai $18.8 million in luxury taxes, dropping the bill from $108 million to $80 million barring any subsequent moves.
February 5, 2023 | 6:27 pm EST Update
Golden State Warriors PR: Warriors assign Patrick Baldwin Jr. to Santa Cruz: pic.twitter.com/FIPZkIXtwN