The Rockets likely will need both. And for the trade possibilities that have circled like birds of prey, the Rockets’ goal remains, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking, to make their core players believe again in the team’s championship chances. That, as always, begins with the face of the franchise. James Harden has long had enormous input in how the team has been built. That has not changed. He has been known to grow impatient, as with his restlessness through the six days it took to complete the trade for Westbrook in the summer of 2019.
The Rockets have no interest in tearing things down to restock shelves with draft picks and prospects and start over, a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. They will attempt to be much more Daryl Morey’s “win now” Rockets than Sam Hinkie’s “trust the process” Sixers.
Stone has known how Westbrook feels long enough that he did not need Sunday’s NBA memo, declaring that the moratorium on trades ends at 11 a.m. Monday morning, to begin assessing his options. Westbrook, like Harden, shares his opinions generously. So far, Stone has not gotten close to the “shopping” stage, with his talks falling between “listening” and “exploring.”
The Rockets believe they can bring in the help to regain his confidence. But it will take a whole lot more than powers of persuasion to make the Rockets — tied for fourth in the West and quickly brushed aside by the champion Lakers in the second round — look like legitimate contenders. Westbrook, according to a person with knowledge of conversations, wants to feel as if he can “be himself.” That could mean moving to a team that would return him to his Thunder role. The Rockets believe it could come with adjustments in Houston.
James Harden is intrigued by the possibility of reuniting with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, a league source familiar with Harden’s thinking told SI. While there have been no substantive discussions between the Nets and Rockets about a trade, Houston is evaluating its options moving forward, per sources.
If anyone understands that, it's Brooklyn fans. It's also Marks, who inherited basically an empty cupboard after the Nets got fleeced by Boston. But Marks expedited a rebuild that could've easily taken a decade, and instead turned the team around in a presidential term. His track record – while not always perfect – pretty much speaks for itself. “Sean's got the stones to pull this off,” was how one agent put it.
While KD, has, by all accounts, looked great in offseason workouts, he still has to prove he can be his dominant self in games. Irving, who has his own injury history to consider, has shown himself to be a volatile personality. And Nash, for all his success and countless accolades as a player, has never dealt with adversity as a coach before. Plus, no offense to Houston, but Harden hasn’t ever played in a market like New York before (even though it may be a lot easier with no fans and Zoom interviews). Regardless, all of it would make the Brooklyn Nets far-and-away the most interesting team in the NBA. “(Expletive) yeah,” another agent responded when asked if he'd like to see it.
Nets Daily: ESPN updated its story on @James Harden and Nets: "The idea of playing together again came up during Harden and Durant's offseason workouts together in LA. Sources said the players talked openly about whether the combination could work and how a trade facilitating it could work."
The idea of joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn is resonating with Harden, sources said. Durant and Harden -- past teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder -- have recently discussed the possibility, but there have yet to be trade discussions between the two front offices.
Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone has consistently been telling teams that the Rockets plan to "run it back" with Harden this season, sources said. The Rockets have seemed inclined to listen to offers on Harden, sources said, although that's customary for most teams about most players in the league. If the Rockets did decide to engage in trade talks on Harden, they've privately made it clear that they would require a monstrous return of players, draft picks and pick swaps.
One possible destination Harden could land is in Brooklyn with the Nets, but according to SNY sources, the support for such a trade wasn't universal. People around Harden contacted some Nets players to discuss the possibility of the perennial All-Star joining the team, per SNY sources. Some were supportive, but not all players contacted about a potential Harden-to-Brooklyn deal were in favor of it, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources with @RamonaShelburne and @Zach Lowe: As Houston’s James Harden considers his future with franchise, one possible trade destination is rising to top of his list: Brooklyn. The idea of reuniting with Kevin Durant and joining Kyrie Irving is resonating with Harden.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: The Rockets continue to tell teams that they plan “run it back” with Harden this season. So far, there have been no trade discussions between the Rockets and Nets.
Farbod Esnaashari: A source is telling me that the Nets have engaged in talks with the Rockets. James Harden for a variation of: Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, and Jarrett Allen. Nothing finalized, but Harden to Nets seems like real possibility. If finalized, announced on Nov 22.
In a conversation on ESPN’s The Jump, veteran NBA insider Zach Lowe said this of the current situation between the Rockets and their stars: From what I’ve heard today, the Rockets are trying to remain calm. There’s nothing imminent. They think they can repair whatever needs to be repaired, and enter next season with both of these guys on the team, and hopefully get off to a strong start.
But I’ve got news for them. The ball’s not in their court. The ball is in James Harden’s court, more than anyone else’s. The moment he walks in there and says ‘Hey, we gave it a shot, I’ve had enough,’ is the moment the whole situation blows up. We haven’t reached that point yet.
But the removal of these key components — D’Antoni departing for an assistant coaching position in Brooklyn and Morey becoming president of basketball operations in Philadelphia — has left serious doubt in both Harden and Westbrook’s minds of an ability to sustain long-term success, sources said. Although Harden and Westbrook were kept abreast of decisions and offered input, both players are in win-now mode and have raised questions as to whether or not that same mindset is shared with the front office, sources said.
There has been an overwhelming amount of support for Silas as he prepares to coach his own team for the first time in 20 years of experience, as well as Stone’s new position as general manager. However, as it pertains to both Harden and Westbrook, there is concern about the direction the team is heading in, specifically worried that the team may prefer a rebuild sooner rather than later, sources said. With both stars still in the prime of their careers and the championship window that was once wide open now shut considerably, both have zero interest in a rebuild, sources said.
The Rockets are fully intending to continue building a title-contender around James Harden, and rival team officials tell The Athletic that the franchise has so far been protective of both Harden and Westbrook in trade discussions.
Shams Charania: Houston's James Harden remains committed to the Rockets and is "locked in" for the season, sources tell @Kelly Iko and me.
As the Houston Rockets navigate an offseason of major change, a new challenge is emerging for the franchise -- the uncertainty of former MVP guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their futures with the team, sources tell ESPN.
In the wake of the departures of head coach Mike D'Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, Harden and Westbrook have expressed concern about the direction of the franchise through direct conversations or discussions with their representatives and the Rockets' front office, sources said.
Tim MacMahon: New Rockets GM Rafael Stone: "For the last eight years, our goal has been to win a championship because we had James Harden. We've still got James Harden. Our goal still is to win a championship."
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 1, 2023 | 10:34 am EST Update
With Montrezl Harrell’s defensive issues and Paul Reed not yet earning the trust of the coaching staff, sources say the Sixers would be open to bringing in another big even if they don’t move one of Embiid’s current backups. It’s the easy place for your mind to drift, but former Sixers big Andre Drummond is an example, if a high-end example, of the sort of player we could be talking about, a big-bodied player and strong rebounder in the more traditional school of bigs. (Naz Reid is a hot player in the rumor mill around the league, though I think he skews more toward the Harrell style of bigs and wouldn’t expect him to be in the mix for Philly.)
The other big roster need, one I was slightly surprised to hear the Sixers are prioritizing, is at the backup five position. It has been a sore spot for the franchise in the Embiid era, and remains one again this season. Philadelphia already has three nominal bigs on the roster, including star center Embiid, but sources say they would be interested in acquiring a safer/more traditional backup to Embiid for certain matchups in the playoffs.
In terms of potential outgoings, the most likely names to be sent out are Furkan Korkmaz, Danuel House Jr., and Jaden Springer, sources say, with the first two out of the rotation and the third never having cracked it.
It’s no guarantee the Raptors decide to move on from Siakam that soon. From a team perspective, it would certainly be comforting to see both Siakam and Barnes, fairly similar players, thrive offensively at the same time. For his part, Siakam isn’t the type to get involved. “Out of my control. Focus on what I have every single day, work with what I have, help wherever I can,” Siakam said of the trade rumours surrounding his team, and whether he wants this version of the team to stay intact. “That’s it. Out of my hands. It’s out of my control, so I have nothing to say about it.”
Don’t expect the big swing at the NBA trade deadline that mortgages any of the future for the present. But if the growth of the Thunder’s young core and the parity of the conference keeps that playoff door ajar, they’ll gladly walk right through. “Coach challenged us at the beginning of January,” Muscala said. “He said, ‘Hey, this is when a lot of teams are in the quote-unquote ‘dog days’ of the season. There’s kind of a tendency to let down. Let’s really challenge ourselves to be in the moment, do the little things, take care of our bodies, do skill work. It’s shown this month.”
Jeremy Schaap: Our interview with @MeyersLeonard , the former Portland and Miami center who is hoping to return to the NBA. Nearly two years ago, he used an antisemitic slur while playing Call of Duty on Twitch. A warning–this story includes offensive language.
On Monday night against Golden State, Gilgeous-Alexander shook off an 0-of-5 start to finish with 31 points and seven assists. Twenty-one came in a rapid second-half comeback, when he beat Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Donte DiVincenzo with a variety of patient isolation attacks, scoring over or passing around Green and Kevon Looney when they’d collapse. “He gets to his spot just as good as anybody in the league,” Green said. “He’s strong as s—. I didn’t realize how strong he’s gotten. Physical, not ducking no contact. Just getting to his spot and getting what he wants. Just delivers his shoulder, gets to his spot and he’s 6-foot-7.”