Southwest Notes: Harden, Rockets, K. Johnson, D. White, Mavs

Within his latest look at the James Harden saga in Houston, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that the Rockets star’s “ball-dominant style, defensive reputation and personality” appear to be limiting the amount of interest on the trade market. Teams not on Harden’s reported wish list have concerns about both cost and fit, says Amick.

“Harden is a terrific scorer, but not a champion,” one front office executive told The Athletic. “He isn’t a two-way player and (he’s) hard to play with. … He is so used to getting his own way, I think there are concerns he can negatively affect a team’s culture.”

While Harden’s preferred landing spot – the Nets, Sixers, Bucks, and Heat – may be more viable destinations, rival executives are “extremely skeptical” that Houston and Brooklyn will reach a deal, and Milwaukee looks like a long shot too, according to Amick.

Philadelphia may be the most viable option, given Daryl Morey‘s strong affinity for Harden, but the 76ers are committed to giving the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid duo an opportunity to play under Doc Rivers. As for Miami, sources close to the situation are skeptical that the Heat will want to try to assimilate Harden into their culture built on “discipline and dirty work,” says Amick.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Rockets announced today that they plan to host fans at the Toyota Center to start the season, with a reduced capacity and healthy and safety protocols in place. The team is expected to allow between 3,000 and 3,700 in the building, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday that second-year forward Keldon Johnson, who has been sidelined so far this month due to a foot injury, won’t be ready for the team’s regular season opener, but could be good to go in “a couple of weeks,” writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Derrick White (left toe surgery) will likely be out longer than that, per Popovich. “(Johnson is) going 3-on-3 now,” Popovich said. “He has contact and he’s competing. … Derrick’s further behind (in his rehab). He’s not out on the floor competing or doing anything of that nature.”
  • The Mavericks achieved their offseason goals of improving their defense and gaining more future cap flexibility, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who surprisingly projects the club to finish with the second-best record in the Western Conference (47-25).
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