Rockets GM Daryl Morey said his team would “never trade” Dwight Howard and James Harden amid comments to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that deride Mavs owner Mark Cuban for, among other moves, breaking up the core of his 2011 title team. Morey told Wojnarowski that he thought Cuban, who’s lobbed incendiary statements of his own at the Rockets from time to time, is angry at him for targeting Dirk Nowitzki in free agency. That longshot bid that didn’t derail the Mavs from re-signing the power forward to a discounted three-year deal.
“We’re no different than other teams,” Morey said. “We have a core of two players – Dwight Howard and James Harden – who we are going to build around and never trade. San Antonio has had three core guys who they’ve done an unbelievable job of building around, making a lot of changes around that core. We had Tracy McGrady and Yao [Ming] and we made changes around them. And Mark’s had a core of one [Nowitzki], who was there since before he bought the team.”
The case of Nowitzki, to whom the Rockets reportedly made a max offer, runs contrary to Morey’s assertion that if free agents are presented with equal offers from Houston and Dallas, they’ll choose the Rockets “every time,” since Nowitzki took less money to return to the Mavs. Still, the point of Morey’s remarks seemed to be chiefly to jab the outspoken Dallas owner, as Morey said the Rockets are in a fight “for the hearts and minds of free agents.”
There haven’t been any trade rumors surrounding Harden or Howard in recent months, as it’s seemed that the Rockets are indeed trying to build around them as pillars of the franchise. Still, Morey’s comments seem to preclude the notion that the team will look to reboot any time soon if this summer’s disappointments in free agency translate into regression in the standings. Howard is signed through the summer of 2017, though he can opt out in the summer of 2016. Harden’s deal runs through the 2017/18 season with no option clauses.