MacMahon said the Rockets “absolutely don’t want a fight” with Harden. “The Rockets are clinging to the hope, ‘Hey, we can be competitive this year,” said MacMahon. “‘If we’re competitive and we’re willing, maybe James will get back on board’ They’re just clinging to this hope and I mean, how many times have you seen a superstar demand a trade very publicly and things ended up working out. I will give you Kobe Bryant when they pulled the Pau Gasol trade and won championships. I’m having a hard time thinking of another situation like that.”
The Rockets were definitely expecting Harden to report over the weekend and get to work (after going through league COVID-19 protocol to be cleared). They were surprised by this just like everyone else.
And for anyone wondering if Harden might have told team officials that he has no plans to wear a Rockets jersey this season — or, perhaps, ever again — sources say that’s not the case. There has been no such declaration, and the plan remains for him to suit up for the Rockets this season.
As for the prospects of him being traded, sources say the Rockets’ demands remain unchanged even after these past few days: An All-Star/All-NBA level player in return, as well as a treasure trove of other assets (young prospects, first-round draft picks, etc.). But as of Monday afternoon, sources say, the trade market wasn’t responding to these demands in the kind of way that would inspire a move.
Sources: These are unprecedented times for all involved, but there are rules and regulations surrounding this season for a very serious reason. Yet while Harden is clearly in violation of team rules in terms of reporting, it’s not clear as yet if his choices will result in discipline from either the Rockets or the NBA. “You’d like to get through it holistically,” one Rockets source said.
Sources: There’s some small sense here from the Rockets that this is James being James. He’s a known life-of-the-party type guy who — in non-pandemic times — was known to jet-set in pursuit of a good time only to hurry back to Houston while finding a way to perform at an MVP level. Yet while this is clearly different, his absence does not appear to have been packaged with a clear message attached.
There is significant confusion about what, if anything, he is trying to accomplish by staying away that goes beyond the messages already being sent. As for rival executives who are closely monitoring the situation, there’s confusion, and plenty of intrigue, there too.
Silas was then asked about Wall’s aforementioned interaction with Harden and what it might mean. “The only relationship that I have with James is the fact that he was one of the people who, in the interview process, recommended that I get the job. So that’s the relationship that I have. I assume that the relationship (Harden) has with John goes a lot further down the road, so for that communication to happen doesn’t surprise me and we’ll see when he gets here.”
With rumors swirling about Harden having demanded a trade, and having stayed away from training camp to help force one, his status has become the elephant in the room. It is one the Nets are trying to ignore. “I guess we let the elephant be,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of the Harden rumors. “I love our guys and hopefully they all feel really valued and wanted and respected. We have so many guys that bring so much to the table. “When I’m in the gym with them every day I feel fortunate. So hopefully they feel that, and they don’t feel that we’re looking out the window at greener pastures, because we love what we have here and hopefully our behavior every day emits that and guys feel comfortable, valued and supported and striving for something individually and collectively.”
“How do we handle James Harden not going to practice?” LeVert deadpanned. “For us, for myself, I don’t really have anything to do with James Harden not going to practice. That doesn’t concern me. “I’m focused on the team, the Nets, myself, trying to be the best I can be so that we can be better as a team. I don’t really focus on all of that stuff. That really has nothing to do with me.”
That player isn’t there because he’s exercising his leverage. With league sources saying the Nets are content to go into the season with their current roster and wait Houston out, Harden is forcing the Rockets’ hand. If Harden is successful in forcing a move, it would almost certainly see the Nets giving up a combination of Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. But when asked about Harden’s power move, LeVert feigned ignorance and tried to deflect the question.
Jonathan Feigen: Stephen Silas on James Harden's absence, schedule: "There is no timetable, as far as I know. It is a setback. You want your best player to be here."
Adam Zagoria: "I don't really focus too much on James Harden not going to practice. That has nothing to do with me." @Caris LeVert on the Harden trade rumors pic.twitter.com/1Ep4iYC4X2
Alec Sturm: Monja Willis, James Harden's mother, speaks out on Instagram: "He is doing the best for his career...He [is] ask[ing] for a chance to get a ring [and] that's it."
The Rockets have made it clear that they'd require a king's ransom -- starting with a young franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package, per sources -- in any potential deal for Harden. (Houston understood that Westbrook had much less market value and pounced when the asset of a protected first-round pick was attached to Wall.)
Houston's decision-makers do not believe that this deal drastically alters the suddenly strained dynamic between Harden and the organization. It certainly doesn't change the franchise's stance regarding the perennial MVP candidate, who the Rockets fully anticipate will at least begin the season in Houston, as a high-ranking team source told ESPN in the wake of Wednesday's trade.
Houston's front office is confident that the team can be competitive this season. Rookie general manager Rafael Stone has remodeled the roster in his first weeks on the job, adding skilled centers Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins in free agency before this sell-low swap of max-salary PGs. The Rockets are hopeful that winning will ease Harden's itchiness for an exit while recognizing that the pressure to trade him will intensify if early returns indicate that the team is not capable of contending.
During a later exchange at the press conference, House was asked about recent reports that All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook had sought to be traded elsewhere, and whether he had heard from them during the offseason. In response, House said his entire focus has been on addressing his personal fallout from the bubble: What Russ and James and the team got going on, as far as my concern, I really didn’t know. I’ve been focused on the bubble situation. I wouldn’t be able to answer that question for you right now, because I was too busy trying to get myself into a position to present myself back to the team and organization, and the fans of Houston.
Marc Stein: Rockets star James Harden was not yet in Houston for the team's individual workouts Thursday, league sources say ... New Rockets coach Stephen Silas said this afternoon of Harden that he's "confident that he'll be here when we get started" Houston's first practice is Sunday
Michael C. Wright: Stephen Silas: "I'm looking forward to him [Harden] coming, and I'm looking forward to see what the team looks like. I'm looking forward to the whole group being on the floor together."
Adrian Wojnarowski: Russell Westbrook wanted to be in Washington, reunited with Scott Brooks, play with Brad Beal and John Wall wanted to play with James Harden, wanted to go to Houston. And finally they got that deal done.
But Houston remains intent on starting the season with Harden on the roster and trying to re-establish a relationship with him before considering a trade, according to a person familiar with the Rockets’ thinking who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Tim MacMahon: Eric Gordon on Rockets: "Our core guys are still here. I still have high expectations going into the season, no matter what all the outside noise is." Does he feel James Harden is still on board? "That’s a question you have to ask him. He’s still with our team, so I assume so."
Hours before the Warriors president of basketball operations spoke to the media Tuesday, a report dropped that Golden State had checked in with the Houston Rockets to gauge the availability of James Harden. When asked about his team's interest in the 2018 NBA MVP, Myers turned quiet. "No, I'm not going to comment on everything that's written about us, true or untrue," Myers told the media. "I'm just not going to do that. I appreciate you have to ask, but if every call we made or didn't make, I had to comment ... I don't think it's productive on my side. "I understand why you ask these questions. Very fair to ask."
For the Wizards and Rockets, there's hope that the exchange of guards will play a role in convincing the two franchise shooting guards on each team, Washington's Bradley Beal and Houston's James Harden, to want to stay long-term with their teams. Harden has privately asked for a trade, and Beal could become a free agent in 2021.
Houston's stance on Harden has not changed, a high-ranking Rockets source told ESPN, saying the team hoped to be competitive with the perennial MVP candidate on the roster this season and does not envision a scenario in which Harden would be traded before the opener. The Rockets have let it be known that they would require a return that included a young, potential franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package in any potential deal for Harden, according to sources.
Kelly Iko: Eric Gordon on whether he thinks James Harden is committed to the team: “That’s a question for him. He’s still with the team so I would believe so.”
On Tuesday morning, Elhassan’s Sirius XM NBA colleague, Frank Isola, doubled down on the report that Harden wants out, during Sirius XM’s morning NBA show The Starting Lineup. “We had that confirmed by somebody pretty plugged in that Harden definitely wants out. And he told them trade me to Brooklyn. And I’m only doing it if I’m the Nets if I can trade Kyrie Irving.”
Shams Charania: I don’t even believe an offer was made [for James Harden by the Warriors]. I think it was just an inquiry like, ‘We have a potential major offer here if you guys want to discuss.’ Houston was not really - I think they were open to hearing out different offers and proposals as they have been even going back to last year with all of their players, as historically that franchise has been. But they weren’t out there soliciting and making counters and making offers. But I think the Warriors did make it known, ‘Listen, we have a potential major offer here if you want to talk.’
Shams Charania: The Warriors at one point made a call about James Harden.
What’s Houston’s mindset going into training camp with Harden and Westbrook? Feigen: I think the organization’s mood is extremely cautiously optimistic, but optimistic. The organization has felt all along they need to bring these guys back and let them work with Stephen Silas, let them work with a slightly changed rotation, and let them feel good about that. Things get that way a little more when you’re apart and when you’re playing pickup ball with KD (Kevin Durant), and he’s so excited about what that team can do. You remember those good times in Oklahoma City, and they went to the Finals where Harden has not been since he left Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and crew would be must-see TV by themselves; adding one of the all-time great players in the two-time league MVP Nash, who’s never coached anywhere at any level, only adds to the palace intrigue. (Having a first-time HC is one reason I don’t think Brooklyn’s going to get James Harden; I just can’t see GM Sean Marks being comfortable putting that much on Nash’s plate as he’s learning the coaching ropes; it’s going to be hard enough for him keeping KD and Kyrie sated.) No one thought Harris was going anywhere, so re-inking him at just under $19 million per is about as well as you could expect the Nets to do. I like Shamet, but he couldn’t secure consistent time in Philly or with the Clippers, and it’s hard to see him getting a ton of burn with Caris LeVert already behind Irving and Harris, but we’ll see.
Well, with all seemingly quiet on the Harden front, Brian Lewis of the New York Post appeared on NBA TV to provide some clarity on the situation. To avoid spoiling the video, let’s just say that fans who are behind a trade for the former MVP will find themselves disappointed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that they (the Nets) have moved on from the idea of adding Harden, and it’s not dead in the water,” said Lewis. “It’s more floating. In other words, Houston — from what I understand — is not in a rush to move him. I think they accept the fact that’s what going to end up happening. . . They would love to bring as many teams to the table as they can to get the best deal.”
CJ Mc McCollum: “I like LeVert. I like Dinwiddie, I like Jarett Allen. I like the picks. But for Houston, you went all in on James, you brought in James, like his preferred players." Don't you have to ask for Kyrie in return? CJ McCollum: “Yeah, for Kyrie I would do it.”
Hardwood Paroxysm: Corrected: Nets are currently favored to start the season with Harden at @PointsBetUSA. You can get Rockets at plus money.
Tim MacMahon: How the Rockets handle James Harden's desire to be dealt to the Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets insist that they haven't given up on winning back Harden's heart -- and the series of moves that resulted in high-scoring center Christian Wood's arrival in Houston were an aggressive, expensive attempt to improve the roster -- but the organization is bracing for life after The Beard. Houston can't afford to be bullied into a bad trade, and time is on the team's side, with Harden under contract for two more years.
Farbod Esnaashari: Sources indicate to me that the Rockets weren't pleased with the Harden's trade request getting leaked so early. He's been as vocal as possible about being traded to the Nets, but Houston believes they have the leverage in this situation. Harden's goal remains the same.
Salman Ali: .@Adrian Wojnarowski says the Rockets have engaged in Russell Westbrook trade discussions, but not James Harden ones. Says Houston getting both Harden and Westbrook back in training camp is more likely than Westbrook getting moved.
With the Nets content to wait for Harden to force his way out of Houston, and unable to offer Serge Ibaka enough to keep him away from the Clippers, Brooklyn has pivoted from big-game hunting and big-name targets. The Nets have shifted their focus to improving around the margins and getting ready for the season.
Hoop Central: Houston has “not shown a desire” to move quickly on a deal for James Harden, via @wojespn. It looks like Harden will be with Houston entering training camp, at least. Eyes
Harden’s desire to be traded to Brooklyn is out in the open now, the Rockets’ dysfunction this season a matter of record. As a source with direct knowledge of what was going on in Houston this season put it Thursday, “things were getting outta control.” Houston’s new front office is holding firm for marquee offers for its marquee superstar; a foundational piece in Wiseman, a potential high Lottery pick in what should be a loaded draft next year or in 2022 and a returning Thompson hits a Houston rebuild at multiple levels.
So, with not just Harden but Russell Westbrook wanting out, Houston’s new GM, Rafael Stone, is looking for a deal that starts with a young star and includes multiple first round picks. “A package for Harden, and listen, this thing has accelerated a lot faster than I anticipated it would. These things are all fluid. We understand that. What the Rockets are saying is ‘We need a young franchise cornerstone type of player and a Jrue Holiday-like package of picks. That’s where conversations have to start.’ And do you see a young franchise cornerstone caliber player on the Nets? Do you consider Caris LeVert either young or a franchise cornerstone?”
The Houston Rockets have come to the realization that James Harden would like to move on from franchise and his mind is made up, but they are not preparing to rush into a trade to his preferred destination. Houston previously has said they are "willing to get uncomfortable" with the Harden situation. "The sense I get from the Rockets is that their ambition, their goal, their hope is no longer about salvaging the relationship with James Harden and kind of getting him on board," said Tim MacMahon on the Brian Windhorst Podcast. "There's a realization, you know, his mind is made up. He wants out and there is a determination to say 'Okay, we get it. This happens in the NBA, but just because James Harden wants out doesn't mean he gets to dictate where and for what [he's traded].
MacMahon also reported what the Rockets are seeking for Harden. "A package for Harden, and listen, this thing has accelerated a lot faster than I anticipated it would. These things are all fluid. We understand that. What the Rockets are saying is 'We need a young franchise cornerstone type of player and a Jrue Holiday-like package of picks. That's where conversations have to start.' And do you see a young franchise cornerstone caliber player on the Nets? Do you consider Caris LeVert either young or a franchise cornerstone?"
Brian Lewis: Brooklyn GM Sean Marks doesn't address James Harden rumors on @YESNetwork: "It's a crazy business we live in. Things are thrown your way all the time. You have to be flexible and pivot." #Nets #Rockets #NBA
The Rockets’ position on Harden, for the record, hasn’t changed: They don’t want to trade him. Unappetizing as it sounds, Houston wants to play the long game and see if it can rebuild its relationship with Harden before conceding that trading him is the only alternative, even after Rafael Stone, the new general manager, made a forward-looking move in his first major trade by agreeing to send Robert Covington to Portland for Trevor Ariza and two future first-round picks.
David Hardisty: According to @Stephen A. Smith, the Rockets are not listening to any low offers, but they "are trying to work on a three-way because they recognize that Brooklyn doesn't have enough to give them. So they are working on a three-team deal. They're working on that right now."
While there are reports circulating that the Nets and Rockets have reached a verbal agreement, sources have denied that is the case. Though most scenarios have the Nets parting with combinations of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and multiple first-round picks, they obviously don’t want to give up the farm.
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.
"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.
“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 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.
October 6, 2022 | 12:26 pm EDT Update
Miami has earned the benefit of the doubt. It will have a stout, switchable defense even with Tucker gone. (The Heat have interest in Jae Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.)
The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.
If Wednesday’s postgame words were any indication, he’ll hope respect begets respect and not demand anything from the referees. “I appreciate the refs,” Maxey said. “They’re great. They’ve been doing a great job. They’ve been tasked with a very hard job. A lot of our guys probably are tough on them. So they’re doing a great job and I have nothing but respect for every single ref in our league. “I just go out there and try to play hard, go to the rim, and sometimes draw contact, get to the line and help us move the scoreboard.”