When John Wall stated looking like his old self and Christian Wood emerged as a beast pick-and-roll partner, there was, for a fleeting moment, a last-ditch sense of hope that perhaps James Harden would recant his trade demand. So much for that.
While talk has died down around Harden’s public preseason demand, Harden still clearly wants out of Houston. On Tuesday, after Houston got smoked by the Lakers to fall to a Western Conference-worst 3-7 for the season, Harden only needed a few words to say everything about the situation with the Rockets, who Harden proclaimed are “just not good enough.”
“Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear,” Harden continued. “I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. It’s crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed. Thanks.” Then he got up and walked off the podium.
Shortly after Harden’s comments, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Rockets remain engaged in trade talks for Harden with multiple teams, but that they’re asking price remains high and no deal is imminent.
Of course, the Rockets are still shopping Harden, and of course, their asking price is high. Nothing has changed. Harden is simply losing patience that he can’t completely bully his way out of town with two guaranteed years, plus a player option, remaining on his contract.
Harden has listed numerous teams as acceptable trade destinations, including the Nets, Sixers, Heat, Blazers and Bucks. But again, Harden doesn’t have all the leverage here. Yes, he’s a power player who, along with his agent, holds major sway behind closed doors, but he’s not in a walk year. Houston can, and likely will, trade him to whatever team offers the best package, not the team Harden prefers, and until then Harden’s going to be in Houston.
With all the chaos surrounding Kyrie Irving and the Nets right now, you wonder how that might, if at all, impact a potential deal for Harden, or if the Sixers would be willing to shake up the good vibes they’re building with their hot start to the season. The teams to which Harden wants to be traded, in most cases, either don’t have the assets or the incentive to swing a deal.
It’s going to be tough for the Rockets to get anything close to fair value, and Harden is trying to put the screws to them on the chance that they’ll buckle under the pressure, get sick of the drama, and compromise their asking price to rid themselves of what is only going to become a worse headache.