The Houston Rockets have given up on the idea of keeping star guard James Harden, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is headed to the Brooklyn Nets — or any other of his preferred destinations.
All of this is based on a conversation ESPN insider Tim MacMahon had with Brian Windhorst on Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast. MacMahon is a veteran reporter who specializes in the NBA’s Texas trio of the Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.
So if anyone knows what’s up with Harden, it’s MacMahon.
“The sense I get from the Rockets is their ambition, their goal, their hope is no longer about salvaging the relationship with James Harden and getting him on board,” MacMahon said, via RealGM. “There’s a realization his mind is made up.
“He wants out and there is a determination to say ‘OK, we get it. This happens in the NBA. But just because James Harden wants out doesn’t mean he gets to dictate where and for what [he’s traded].”
Harden actually became the second member of the Rockets’ All-Star backcourt to seek a trade. Russell Westbrook did so a few days earlier.
“James Harden got to dictate the Russell Westbrook trade last summer,” MacMahon said. “Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta liked it too at the time. Don’t get me wrong. James Harden was the driving force behind that trade. That was no secret.
“Harden doesn’t get to say where he’s traded and basically force the Rockets to take a package that is 60 cents on the dollar for a perennial MVP candidate. I think what the Rockets are prepping for the post-Harden rebuild.”
Dealing Harden won’t be a quick process, MacMahon suggested.
“These things are all fluid. We understand that,” he said. “What the Rockets are saying is, ‘We need a young franchise cornerstone type of player and a Jrue Holiday-like package of picks. That’s where conversations have to start.’
“And do you see a young franchise cornerstone caliber player on the Nets? Do you consider Caris LeVert either young or a franchise cornerstone?”