James Harden wants out of Houston more than ever, with Brooklyn still very much his preferred destination. And now there are signs that a potential Nets blockbuster move for the Rockets star is heating back up.
A source had confirmed to The Post that Rockets owner Tilman Fertita wasn’t enamored with the players that Brooklyn had to offer – Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince, etc. But in the wake of Harden’s recent comments and Kyrie Irving’s week-long personal drama, things could well be changing.
After Houston has canvassed the league, the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are the finalists for a potential Harden deal that could come off quickly. Brooklyn is preparing an offer of all its future first-round picks and pick swaps, according to The Athletic.
Could an Irving-Harden swap fix both teams? Or at least give them a chance to exchange headaches? Such a deal does now seem possible.
“We’re just not good enough,” Harden said after his Rockets’ 120-102 blowout loss to the Lakers Sunday. “Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. And it was clear the last few games. From the beginning of the game, they’re just a veteran team obviously, championship team, and one of the best teams we have in this league.
“I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed. Thanks.”
NBA teams can trade picks seven years out in advance, and can’t trade their natural first-round selections in back-to-back years. That would mean some combination of three picks alternating with swaps, like the ones handed to Boston in the infamous Billy King deal that set the Nets back.
While many Nets fans would shiver at the mere mention of that ill-advised and ill-fated trade, the situation would be entirely different from the gamble that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. The former was 37 years old, the latter 35, both past their primes and neither All-Star caliber anymore.
Harden, who was not at Rockets practice Wednesday, is coming off three straight scoring titles. And while he came into camp overweight and is coming off arguably the worst five-game stretch of his career, there is a belief in NBA circles that paired with Durant and playing for a contender he would be motivated and show up – which Irving currently is not.
Irving will miss a fifth straight game Wednesday night in the Garden against the Knicks, all for what the team only calls personal reasons. And after being shown on video maskless at a birthday party, Irving is being investigated by the NBA and could well face a fine or mandatory quarantine. If the latter forces him to miss games, he’d lose games checks in excess of over $400,000 each.
Clearly any blockbuster this big is going to be signed off on at the highest level, Nets owner Joe Tsai and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. Up to this point, Houston has been unimpressed with Brooklyn’s youngish players, Allen, LeVert, Prince and Spencer Dinwiddie, the latter currently sidelined with a torn ACL.
But Harden’s adamant desire to leave – preferably for Brooklyn – could well make any Nets offer look more appealing to Houston. Irving’s recent personal drama could make the prospect of adding him in that offer more appealing to the Nets.