While a pair of former All-Stars – Chris Paul and Jrue Holiday – were involved in trades agreed upon on Monday, another All-Star guard briefly stole NBA headlines. Word broke that Rockets superstar James Harden had turned down an extension offer that would have tacked on two years and a staggering $103MM to the three years left on his current deal. Harden is said to be “singularly focused” on being dealt to the Nets, per Monday’s reports.
According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Harden has indicated to the Rockets that he’s not interested in going anywhere except Brooklyn and that he believes the team should make the best deal it can with the Nets, “even if they do not consider it satisfactory.” That’s a bold demand for a player with at least two years left on his contract — even a player of Harden’s caliber.
As Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated this morning during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), the Rockets aren’t yet acting with urgency and feel like they can afford to take their time, given Harden’s contract situation. While the Rockets have been in contact with the Nets, no substantive discussions have taken place between the two teams yet, Woj adds.
Houston also hasn’t engaged with any other teams about Harden, since he appears to be solely interested in Brooklyn and the Rockets don’t want to move him to begin with, says Feigen.
Here’s more on the former MVP:
- Although the Nets have several intriguing assets, they don’t have one “knockout” piece – such as a young player with superstar potential or a future pick that would land at or near the top of the draft – to entice the Rockets, Wojnarowski notes. Feigen makes a similar point, suggesting that Brooklyn’s inability to offer a player who could be Harden’s “successor” has Houston resisting the idea of making a trade with the Nets.
- ESPN’s Zach Lowe takes a deep dive into the possibility of a trade between the Nets and Rockets and contends that a Brooklyn offer for Harden would probably have to look something like this: Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, some small salary filler, this year’s No. 19 pick, two unprotected or lightly-protected future first-rounders, and two future pick swaps.
- As of Monday, the Rockets didn’t consider their relationship with Harden broken, according to Feigen, who said talks between the two sides have been “cordial.” The team just hasn’t yet been able to convince him to reconsider his position.
- The Rockets’ other former MVP, Russell Westbrook, remains a trade candidate as well, but nothing is close on that front. As Feigen explains, Houston hasn’t yet been able to find a deal for Westbrook that would bring a strong enough return to help convince Harden that the team can still contend for a title.
- The fact that the Rockets surrendered multiple draft picks and pick swaps in last year’s Westbrook acquisition has made the team hesitant to embark upon a rebuild, per Feigen. Houston also still believes it can be a factor in the Western Conference race if both Harden and Westbrook return and the right additions are made.