2:34pm: The Sixers, who have traded away a protected 2025 first-rounder, are attempting to scrounge up more draft picks to sweeten the pot for the Rockets, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As Stein explains (via Twitter), Philadelphia is making an effort to keep Maxey out of a potential deal.
1:47pm: The Rockets continue to haggle over exactly which players and other assets would be included a Harden trade, but league sources say the Sixers appear to be the favorites, tweets Stein.
Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle confirms that Philadelphia has offered Simmons, but says the Rockets and 76ers have yet to agree on the rest of a trade structure. Houston wants Thybulle included in the package, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
1:28pm: The Rockets are pursuing a Sixers trade package that would be headlined by Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). The 76ers are known to be interested in P.J. Tucker in addition to Harden, Stein says (via Twitter).
1:13pm: As the Rockets seriously consider their trade options, they conducted today’s practice without Harden in attendance, head coach Stephen Silas told reporters (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).
“We felt that it was best for the group and best for James not to come to practice,” Silas said.
The Rockets plan to keep Harden away from the team until a trade is done, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). That’s another sign that the team is moving toward finalizing a deal in the very near future.
Woj and Shelburne add (via Twitter) that Houston’s talks with Brooklyn and Philadelphia were gaining momentum in recent days, even before Tuesday’s postgame presser.
1:04pm: It appears the Rockets have increased their efforts to trade James Harden in the wake of his blunt assessment of the team’s shortcomings on Tuesday night. According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, Houston is “sifting through offers” from the Nets and Sixers and could move quickly to complete a deal.
Sources tell Charania and Amick that the Nets have prepared a package that would include four future first-round picks and three pick swaps. Teams are only permitted to trade draft picks up to seven years in advance and can’t leave themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future seasons, so Brooklyn is essentially willing to put all its first-rounders on the table.
In that scenario, the Nets would presumably trade its 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 selections and agree to pick swaps for 2022, 2024, and 2026. However, The Athletic’s duo cautions that Brooklyn may hesitate to mortgage so many future assets.
It’s also not clear which players the Nets would make available in such a package. Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) is among those who have heard that Houston hasn’t been enamored with the players the Nets have to offer. Previous reports have suggested a third team may be necessary to complete a trade sending Harden to Brooklyn, but it’s not clear if the 31-year-old’s comments on Tuesday night changed the equation and prompted the Rockets to lower their asking price a little.
As for the Sixers, Charania and Amick note that the Rockets have pursued a package headlined by Ben Simmons. The report doesn’t make it explicitly clear whether or not Simmons is on the table, but suggests he could be had. According to The Athletic, the Rockets and 76ers have also discussed Matisse Thybulle, a player Houston likes.
While Harden has expanded his list of preferred destinations beyond Brooklyn and Philadelphia, those were said to be the first two teams he expressed interest in joining and are still believed to be atop his wish list. Both teams make sense as fits, since they have the assets to acquire Harden without giving up their very best players.
Joining the Nets would give Harden the opportunity to reunite with former teammate Kevin Durant, while heading to Philadelphia would see him rejoin former Rockets GM Daryl Morey and team up with star center Joel Embiid.