The Houston Rockets open the 2020-21 season on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and superstar James Harden is still looking to be traded by the team. While Harden has been practicing with the Rockets and will start against the Thunder, it’s clear the former MVP isn’t happy in Houston.
One of the best passers in the NBA, James Harden is now showing off his elite passing skills in practice. However, it’s taking place in a fashion no one in Houston wants to see.
James Harden is dodging questions about his trade request
The Rockets are still making James Harden available to the media despite the three-time scoring champion requesting a trade. That has made his media sessions pretty awkward, as reporters have been asking Harden about his trade request.
NBA players are required to speak to the media as long as they are healthy. While he’s still on the Rockets, look for Harden to continue to dodge questions about his trade request. The Beard is clearly frustrated he’s still on the Rockets, but he’s going to remain as professional as he can and answer questions the media has for him as long as they aren’t about his trade request.
During the 2018-19 season, Anthony Davis was fined $50,000 for violating a collectively-bargained rule prohibiting players or their representatives from making public trade demands. The former No. 1 overall pick openly talked about his trade request from the New Orleans Pelicans. James Harden seems to have learned from Davis’ mistake and won’t be discussing his desire to leave Houston.
James Harden’s trade market seems to be down to the Nets and Sixers
James Harden has made it clear he wants a trade to a contender, with the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks atop his preferred destinations, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, the Bucks and Heat are no longer pursuing a Harden trade.
With that being said, it appears Harden is going to be traded to the Nets or Sixers. Brooklyn stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of Harden’s closest friends in the NBA. Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni also coached Harden on the Rockets for four seasons. The Sixers, meanwhile, have Daryl Morey in the front office. Morey used to be the Rockets’ general manager, and he’s a huge fan of Harden.
The Nets are expected to be title contenders this season with Durant and Irving leading the way. If the team can acquire Harden, Brooklyn will likely overtake the Los Angeles Lakers as the favorite to win the 2021 championship.
While the Sixers have been adamant that they don’t want to trade Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, the chance to get James Harden–one of the best scorers in NBA history–may be too enticing for Morey to pass up.
The Beard is taking out his frustration with the Rockets on his teammates
James Harden has had multiple verbal confrontations with Rockets teammates in practice. The future Hall of Famer and rookie Jae’Sean Tate had a heated exchange, culminating in Harden throwing the ball at Tate.
The 2018 MVP is pretty laid back and rarely gets upset, so this incident proves that Harden is extremely frustrated in Houston. The Rockets need to move Harden sooner rather than later since it’s evident the former Sixth Man of the Year has no intention of changing his stance on his trade request.
In 68 games last season, Harden averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. He led the NBA in scoring for the third consecutive season, but the Rockets lost to the Lakers in the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals in five games at Walt Disney World in the NBA bubble.
The Rockets can’t trade James Harden for scraps since he’s one of the league’s elite players. Houston has to get a huge return for the eight-time All-Star, and it appears the franchise is willing to get uncomfortable with Harden until a trade package they like comes around.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.