Harden goes to Brooklyn Nets as 4-team blockbuster deal

By Freddie B. Willis, Jr.

Photo: The Athletic

Following Tuesday night’s 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the second straight blowout defeat at the hands of the defending champions, former Houston Rockets guard James Harden said that this year’s edition of the Houston Rockets after nine games isn’t “good enough” to compete for a championship.

After making those comments, the Rockets accommodated Harden’s request sending him to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a 4-team deal Wednesday afternoon. Rockets obtain Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, 3 Brooklyn first-round picks in 2022, 2024, 2026), 1 Milwaukee first-round pick (2022, unprotected) along with four Brooklyn 1st round swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027).

Brooklyn receives a 2024 second round selection to go along with Harden. Indiana gets Caris LeVert and a 2023 second-round pick from Cleveland and the Cavaliers receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn.

The trade was agreed to after the Rockets opted to keep Harden away from Wednesday’s practice. Harden hired Jason Ranne and Chafie Fields from Wasserman, and they worked closely with the Rockets and all teams involved to secure the trade for him.

“We’re not even close, honestly, to that team – obviously, the defending champions and all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said Tuesday night. “I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games. We are just not good enough. The chemistry, talent-wise, just everything. And it was clear these last two games.”

In his eight-plus seasons with Houston, Harden made the All-Star team each year and was first-team All-NBA six times, including the 2018 where he won the league’s MVP.

His 36.1 points per game that season was a franchise record and nearly came close to that mark last season avenging 34.3 points per game in leading the league in scoring for the third straight year in the 2018-19 season are a franchise record.

Harden came close to that record again last season, averaging 34.3 points and leading the league in scoring for the third straight year.

The Rockets made the playoffs in all eight of Harden’s seasons, which is the longest active postseason streak in the NBA.

The 31-year-old Harden was off to a poor start this season, scoring 20 points or fewer in four straight games for the first time since his Oklahoma City days.

The writing was on the wall that Harden would be on his way out when he turned down a contract extension from the Rockets in the offseason that would have been worth $103 million over two years.

Prior to the trade happening, Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins blasted Harden for being “disrespectful” with his antics this season and also called it “completely unfair” to his teammates.

Cousins made his voice known during a virtual availability prior to the trade. “Obviously, it’s disrespectful, but everybody has a right to their opinion,” Cousins said. “We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions.

“This is the nasty part of the business that kind of gets swept under the rug. You deal with some of these things. When guys are in positions of being franchise players or whatever the case may be, it is usually sometimes a nasty breakup,” Cousins said.

Houston never advanced past the Western Conference Finals when he was there, and it was fair to wonder if it would ever win the title with him as its best player. He is owed $85.7 million over the next two seasons, and he has a $47.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season.

In trading Harden to Brooklyn, Houston has control over the Nets’ next seven drafts (along with that Bucks pick) are plenty appealing. Rockets General Manager Raphael Stone deserves a lot of credit in getting back such a haul for Harden.

Photo: BeInSports


However, the cupboard is now stocked for Houston with Brooklyn’s current nucleus — Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving — will not keep those picks in the late 20s for long. Fliers on Exum, Kurucs and, finally, Victor Oladipo, are gravy.

Oladipo is off to a hot start to a contract year and figures to fit snugly alongside to an invigorated John Wall and emboldened Christian Wood. The Rockets can be decent now and the cupboard is loaded for the future, especially if they eventually look to flip P.J. Tucker. With Allen’s deal expiring (and Wood locked in long term), swapping him for even a late first makes sense.

With the trade of Harden moving on, the Rockets are not title contenders at least this season, but they are setup well for the future. Draft picks, potential cap space and with the expiring contract of Victor Oladipo, the Rockets are setup to where they can rebuild from the ground up. The group of John Wall, Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Exum and DeMarcus Cousins is intriguing and escaping the Harden drama should be a major relief inside the locker room.

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