“It will be a while,” said a league source not affiliated with the Rockets Monday. But the overwhelming expectation around the league now is that it will, inevitably, happen, whether it’s this month, in December or sometime in 2021.
"The Rockets really want to make James Harden a Rocket for life... They want to try to find a way to rebuild this relationship. If they are gonna move him, they want a mountain in return ie. assets, players, picks." - ESPN's @wojespn .
There are obvious ties to both Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Harden loved the years he spent with Durant and the Thunder early on in his career, constantly being called the glue that held the team together, according to a source close to Harden. During the Rockets’ 2018 trip to the Bahamas prior to training camp, Harden would watch hours of old Thunder games in his room. The presence of D’Antoni on the Nets’ staff as Steve Nash’s top assistant, along with the abilities of Kyrie Irving to take some of the ballhandling and scoring load off of Harden, would be an added bonus.
The Brooklyn Nets are prepared to go all-in for James Harden of the Rockets. Well, as long as they don’t have to give up one of their current stars. The Nets are throwing the proverbial “kitchen sink” in an effort to acquire the Houston Rockets superstar, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. “The Brooklyn deal, it’s good.” O’Connor said on The Ringer NBA Show. “If you get all of those picks — and I’ve heard they are throwing the kitchen sink at Houston for James Harden — and [Caris LeVert], and [Spencer] Dinwiddie, that’s a really strong offer for a player who wants to leave.”
“It’s not a long shot,” O’Connor said about Harden being on the Rockets next season. “What’s the incentive to make a deal now? They could wait…and potentially have more opportunities to trade him for more than what Brooklyn can offer. Brooklyn can offer all of their future first round picks, all of their future pick swaps, Caris LeVert, Jarret Allen, and that’s it.” “For the Rockets, is this the deal you want to make now?…You don’t just trade guys like that for offers that aren’t no-brainers, and Brooklyn right now isn’t offering a no-brainer…It’s just not there yet.”
The idea is for the Nets to create a super team around Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden, the team believing they have a three-year window with the superstars and they’re all in while at the table. One league source close to the situation said, “They [Brooklyn] not only want to win, they want to ‘dominate.’”
While no details have emerged on what the Nets would give up, league sources believe the team would have to package “the house” – which would revolve around up-and-coming star Caris LeVert plus the likelihood of players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Nicolas Claxton. League sources also added that Brooklyn will have to surrender an array of first-round picks in the coming years for any of this to come to fruition.
Harden, his family, and his foundation have done a great deal of work within Houston during his eight years there and have a vested interest in the city. Harden has a good relationship with Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner, other local professional teams, and has worked extensively with youth and the underprivileged. He’s a part of the ownership group that controls the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash. Harden is also currently building his own restaurant/bar in Houston, according to a source familiar with developments. There is a lot of mutual love that exists between him and the city.
Phoenix acquired Paul from Oklahoma City to ease Devin Booker’s mind. The NBA champion Lakers didn’t sit still, either, trading for Dennis Schröder. The Clippers will make a move at some point, though a league source indicates they’re not pursuing Harden at the moment.
Philadelphia’s interest in Harden has grown in recent weeks, sources said. Morey’s ascension to the top decision-maker spot on the basketball side as president of basketball operations is an obvious link, given the history Harden and he share, but there’s also the lure of the Eastern Conference.
Rapper Meek Mill has a longstanding relationship with Harden and has been trying to convince him to come to Philadelphia, according to a source. Billionaire Michael Rubin, a close friend of Meek’s and co-owner of the 76ers, is also very fond of Harden.
The team is well aware of how much Harden now wants to leave. It will take a substantial package and an impact player. But there is a combo out there that will get them to yes. While this has been the stance Houston has taken for years, sources tell The Athletic, past inquiries about the former MVP in seasons past have been discarded, with Houston simply not entertaining the notion of moving the 2018 league MVP.
But getting anything approaching fair value for Harden will not be easy. “When you’re trading one of the top five players in the world with three years left on his contract, anything you get is underwhelming, and you know you are losing the deal,” a team executive whose team is not involved in the trade talks said Monday.
The Houston Rockets feel no pressure to trade James Harden or Russell Westbrook regardless of the superstars' strong desire for fresh starts with different franchises and are "willing to get uncomfortable" as training camp opens and the season begins, sources told ESPN.
The downside of being a valuable player is becoming a valuable trade chip, with the young center aware his name is being linked in trade rumors for James Harden. “At the end of the day I’m still going to be playing basketball. Whenever I go into the gym, and whatever happens, I’m there, I’m present,” said Allen, 22. “I’m ready to play for the Nets, I’m ready to learn from everybody there and just go about my stuff and just stay grounded as much as I can.”
The early signals emanating from Philadelphia suggest that Morey, the 76ers’ new president of basketball operations, wants to give Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons every last chance to click before trading one of them. Houston, just to name one non-Nets option, could decide to wait to see if the Sixers’ stance changes. As wary as the Rockets must be about doing a deal of that magnitude with Morey, we’ve seen that front offices that know each other well often find it easier to collaborate on the biggest of trades.
Anthony Puccio: Sources around the league believe there is a “verbal agreement” between the Nets and Rockets that would bring James Harden to Brooklyn, and create a superteam with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Story with @FOS: frontofficesports.com/sources-nets-r…
James Harden has a strong desire to get to Brooklyn, SNY sources confirm. How strong is the Nets’ desire to trade for Harden? That’s unknown. But the price tag for Harden probably went up after Milwaukee sent Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round picks and two pick swaps for Jrue Holiday. While the situations around Holiday and Harden aren’t the same, the Rockets can certainly make a case that they deserve a large haul based on the Holiday deal. “That deal certainly helps (Houston’s) case,” an opposing executive said Tuesday.
Another question to consider: How much support among the Nets is there for a Harden trade? As SNY reported on Sunday, people around Harden contacted some Nets about a Harden-to-Brooklyn trade recently. There was support for the idea among the Nets contacted, but the support wasn’t universal, SNY sources say. It’s unclear if there is universal support for the deal among Nets decision-makers. But if Durant and Irving are on board, you’d think that would increase the likelihood of a Harden trade.
Nets Daily: It seems that the Harden rumors are slowing. From Woj this morning: “With two years left on his deal, a great player can still dictate a lot, but I don’t know if Harden, his will, can just bully his way out of Houston, in the near term.”
Reports of a Russell Westbrook trade request to the Houston Rockets leaked last week, but it could have been in response to James Harden privately angling for a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. "I heard it a number of days ago," said Brian Windhorst on The Lowe Post of Harden's interest in the Nets. "Guess who else heard it? Russell Westbrook. So I think Westbrook, who is kind of the forgotten man here, I think he goes in and is like 'You're not asking for a trade. I'm asking for a trade.' "And so I think in the postmortem, it might have been Harden who moved first."
SiriusXM NBA Radio: "If you look at Kyrie... Harden if this happens, and then Kevin Durant, it's going to be extremely difficult" Hall of Famer Ray Allen tells @TheFrankIsola & @Scalabrine that if James Harden were to end up in Brooklyn he doesn't think it will work with Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant
Alec Sturm: Shams Charania on GameTime recently: "[As] for James Harden, on the Nets, I'm told there's not much interest on Houston's part with them, unless it includes Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant." Shams says he thinks there isn't "tremendous pressure on Houston" to make a trade.
After turning down the chance to become the first $50 million a year player in league history, Houston Rockets guard All-NBA guard James Harden has made it clear to ownership that he's singularly focused on a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, sources tell ESPN. As Harden's conversations with the Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ramped up in recent weeks on the West Coast, sources say the Rockets made a pitch for him to sign the maximum allowable extension -- two years and $103 million on top of the remaining three years, $133 million on his current deal.
So far, Harden's determination to get to Brooklyn has resulted in no progress toward that end. Houston and Brooklyn have been in contact, but so far have engaged in no meaningful dialogue, sources said. The Rockets want a massive return of assets for Harden, and are willing to be patient to find that in the marketplace. So far, there's no indication that the Rockets believe the Nets could deliver a package that fits that profile.
Harden believes his window to chase championships in Houston has ended, and constructing a super team with the Nets represents his best pathway to a title, sources said. Harden can become a free agent in 2022 if he opts out of the final year of his contract -- and sources say that Brooklyn represents a two-year play to win a title before deciding on the next steps in his career.
Mark Berman: NBA sources confirm multiple reports that James Harden (@James Harden) does want to be traded, but only to the @Brooklyn Nets where he would be reunited with Kevin Durant (@Kevin Durant).
In an interview Monday afternoon with his ESPN colleague Ashley Brewer, Adrian Wojnarowski said James Harden remains set on joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, but he suggested Houston may not be ready to deal him right now. Instead, he raised the possibility that the Rockets may wait in hopes they can “create a market” for Harden.
“Because Harden is still under contract to Houston, there’s not a great deal of leverage to force your way out, but his focus is getting to the Brooklyn Nets,” Woj said, noting that he and KD have spoken. “He’s spent recent weeks out in L.A. working out with Kevin Durant, with Kyrie Irving. That’s his intention now. For Houston, if they’re going to trade James Harden, they have made it clear to Brooklyn and around the league that they want a massive haul back. That means young players, that means draft picks. that means salary cap relief.”
As a result, Woj said the Rockets have options. “They can start the season with Harden on their roster and play this out and try to build a market for him, but right now, James Harden, in James Harden’s mind, he wants a way to Brooklyn.”
Brian Lewis: Jarrett Allen’s name is right in the middle of the trade rumors for James Harden. But the #Nets center – speaking from the Meals + Math Thanksgiving event – said he’s staying focused on the task at hand: Winning an #NBA championship in Brooklyn.
Brian Lewis: Jarrett Allen: “At the end of the day I’m still going to be playing basketball. Whenever I go into the gym, whatever happens, I’m there, I’m present, I’m ready to play for the #Nets. I’m ready to learn from everybody there & go about my stuff & just say grounded as much as I can”
Kelly Iko: The Harden-Philadelphia connection had grown stronger in recent weeks, sources say. Houston has maintained intent on having James Harden on the roster for the upcoming season.
Shams Charania: Rockets star James Harden wants to be on a contender elsewhere, and Brooklyn and Philadelphia are believed to be his top desired trade destinations, sources tell @The Athletic @Stadium. Houston is fully comfortable keeping Harden and Russell Westbrook into the season.
“If you look at Kyrie… Harden if this happens, and then Kevin Durant, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to get along together,” Allen said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “Personality-wise they might be great, but then on the court it could cause trouble or problems, which ultimately could affect their relationship if they don’t decide that they want to win, and scoring and having the ball in their hands does not matter to them.”
“There’s a responsibility that comes with playing the game now and you’re hoping to win a championship,” Allen said. “It’s going to take, specifically Harden, because now you got Kyrie who’s primarily a ball handler, both of them to figure how do we share the responsibility and how do we operate as a team? If they’re willing to do that, it could be amazing what they accomplish. But if not, it could be a train wreck.”
But Harden wants to move on from the Rockets, the Chronicle has been informed, and is trying to force his way via trade to Brooklyn, allowing The Beard to form the NBA’s next superteam and rejoin forces with former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant.
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 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 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?
November 27, 2022 | 8:51 pm EST Update
Kendra Andrews: Klay Thompson: “Adversity is the best thing for a team. We had that early on. We have a lot of guys who thrive off the naysayers or those who say you cant do something. I think we are hitting our stride, but there is so much basketball left.”
CJ Holmes: Draymond Green on Jonathan Kuminga’s impact in recent games: “It’s beautiful. You felt the impact. I know we’ve 100% felt and seen the impact. And the reality is, what it boils down to is energy, effort and attention to detail when you’re a young guy.”