When the Rockets finally moved James Harden last week, multiple reports indicated that it came down to the Nets and Sixers. However, those weren’t the only two teams with legitimate interest in the former MVP during the final days of the Harden sweepstakes.
According to Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Celtics remained in the hunt for Harden in the later stages of negotiations. While Danny Ainge publicly said that Boston and Houston hadn’t had any recent discussions, sources tell The Athletic that the Rockets saw the C’s as “part of their process” until the end. Iko and Amick report that Houston also received multiple “big” offers from teams that weren’t on Harden’s wish list.
Still, according to The Athletic, by the time Harden gave his infamous final press conference as a Rocket – during which he criticized the team as “not good enough” – he knew a move to Brooklyn was close. He had been receiving regular updates on the situation, per Iko and Amick, who say that the Sixers’ interest was “very real,” but that the Nets kept upping the ante with their offers.
Here’s more on the Rockets and the Harden saga:
- According to Iko and Amick, Rockets held a team meeting following their second consecutive blowout loss to the Lakers last week, and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both spoke, seeking answers about Harden’s level of commitment, buy-in, and accountability. Harden made it clear during that meeting that the newcomers hadn’t been in Houston long enough to understand what was going on, per The Athletic. Jae’Sean Tate would later describe that meeting as the point where the Rockets “drew the line” on the situation.
- A contract extension offer is on the table for P.J. Tucker, but he hasn’t accepted it and appears to have tabled those negotiations for now, sources tell Iko and Amick. While Tucker is prepared to spend the rest of the season with the team, he also wouldn’t necessary be opposed to a trade, according to The Athletic. A separate report indicated that the Rockets are demanding three second-round picks in return for the 35-year-old forward.
- Rockets GM Rafael Stone said over the weekend that the team plans to be aggressive in attempting to use the $10.65MM traded player exception it created in the Harden deal. Iko and Amick suggest that’s not just posturing — the team has also privately indicated it will attempt to use that TPE to land a quality player.
- Stephen Silas‘ high opinion of Victor Oladipo was a factor in Houston’s decision to acquire him, Iko and Amick report. The Rockets want to take a serious look at Oladipo in the coming months and decide whether he fits into their long-term plans. For his part, Oladipo intends to evaluate the fit as well, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “If things work out, if I’m happy,” Oladipo said, adding that he’s “blessed and fortunate” to be in Houston. “Essentially, it’s like a business plan. You have to go through every aspect of the business plan, kind of figure out if you want to invest in it.”