With James Harden on the verge of taking his sixth coronavirus test and being cleared to practice with the Rockets, there has been “no change” in his desire to be dealt to a new team, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Although Harden would prefer to be playing elsewhere, he has expressed to Rockets ownership and management that he intends to be “professional and engaged,” per Shelburne and Wojnarowski. As the ESPN duo explains, the former MVP is aware that tanking his value would hinder Houston’s ability to complete a deal. He’s also willing to be patient, recognizing that it may take some time for the Rockets to find the right return.
The Rockets have been holding out hope that Harden may still come around to believing in the team’s ability to contend, and John Wall expressed over the weekend that he thinks he and Harden and be “a heck of a combination.”
However, the 31-year-old has been “unmoved” by the acquisition of Wall, sources tell ESPN. As Shelburne and Woj explain, it’s not personal with Wall — Harden simply hasn’t changed his view that he’d have a better chance to compete for a title elsewhere.
The Rockets have touched base with the Nets and Sixers, the top two teams on Harden’s wish list, sources tell ESPN. However, Philadelphia is still unwilling to offer Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid in any deal for Harden, and Houston remains unenthusiastic about a Brooklyn package that would consist of “complementary players” and draft picks.
A hypothetical trade with the Nets may have to involve a third team that could send the Rockets the sort of young franchise cornerstone they’re seeking, according to Shelburne and Wojnarowski, who add that neither Brooklyn nor Houston has expressed interest in a package centered around Kyrie Irving.
ESPN’s report doesn’t mention any talks with teams besides the Nets and 76ers, though that doesn’t mean that none have taken place. Harden has also reportedly added the Bucks and Heat to his list, and Miami is said to be interested in exploring the possibility of a deal. Additionally, since Harden has no power to veto trades, the Rockets could cast a much wider net as they looks to maximize their potential return for Harden.