James Harden wants out of Houston. Badly.
How badly? He rejected a $50 million a year contract extension, he would have been the first NBA player to break that barrier, and instead asked for a trade to Brooklyn, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
As Harden’s conversations with the Nets’ stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ramped up in recent weeks on the West Coast, sources said the Rockets made a pitch for him to sign the maximum allowable extension — two years and $103 million on top of the remaining three years, $133 million on his current deal.
Right now this potential trade is very player driven, Harden and Kevin Durant (and their agents) are doing the talking (and leaking), the teams are nowhere near a deal that works.
So far, Harden’s determination to get to Brooklyn has resulted in no progress toward that end. Houston and Brooklyn have been in contact but so far haven’t engaged in meaningful dialogue, sources said.
The Rockets, as expected, are going to slow play this and try to extract as much value as they can in return. They want all the players and picks.
Rafael Stone and the Rockets have all the leverage here, they can push the Nets for a trade that brings them Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, plus multiple years of first-round picks and pick-swaps. If that’s even enough. Philadelphia might be able to put together a more interesting trade package, and certainly other teams will call as well. With three years left on Harden’s deal, a team not on Harden’s preferred list can risk trading for him and trying to convince him to stay. How Harden would respond to that kind of move remains to be seen.
Unlike the more amicable Chris Paul trade to Phoenix, the Harden trade may take a long time to play out and get messy.