On the heels of a second consecutive blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night, Rockets star James Harden provided a brief, blunt assessment of the team in his postgame press conference.
“We’re just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise. And it was clear these last few games,” Harden said, per Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic (Twitter links). “I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. This situation is crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed. Thanks.”
Harden left the podium immediately after delivering those comments. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets, it was about as close to an explicit trade request as a player is likely to get during a media session, given that the Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for a fine for any player who publicly asks to be dealt.
We’ve known since the offseason that Harden has wanted to be traded out of Houston, but the team’s asking price has remained high and has yet to be met. If the Rockets are going to make a move, they want to extract as much value as they can out of their superstar, particularly since he’s not in a contract year. As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (via Twitter), the club continues to explore potential trade scenarios, as Harden is aware, but no deal is imminent.
Harden’s comments tonight come on the heels of a report earlier this week from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that suggested the Rockets were growing more optimistic about the former MVP being comfortable remaining with the team for the rest of the season, given the promising early-season performances from players like John Wall and Christian Wood.
It’s not clear whether Harden’s statements were a direct response to that report, but they certainly constitute a rebuttal. Houston lost by 18 points to the Lakers on Sunday and by 17 points on Tuesday, dropping its record to 3-6.
Harden made it clear after tonight’s game that he doesn’t feel the Rockets have enough talent to compete with the defending champions, and it sounds like he’s growing impatient waiting for the team to find a deal it likes.
Following Harden’s brief presser, his teammates were left to address the Rockets’ situation, including Tuesday’s loss. John Wall told reporters that it’s a challenge when not everyone wants to “buy in,” and acknowledged that developing chemistry with Harden has been “a little rocky,” per Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter links).
Harden’s contract doesn’t include any sort of no-trade protection, so the Rockets can trade him anywhere, but he has reportedly provided the club with a list of preferred destinations that includes Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami, Milwaukee, Portland, and Boston. Some of those teams are considered more likely than others to pursue a possible deal.