James Harden shoots during the Lakers-Rockets game Tuesday.Troy Taormina / AP
James Harden had his way and will play for the Brooklyn Nets, where he will form a big-three with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. In a new demonstration of the rising power of the NBA stars, the 31-year-old guard-guard achieves his purpose, even though he was the Houston Rockets’ franchise player, the cornerstone of his project.
The Nets, who had already assembled a team with the highest aspirations, reinforce their potential and change the relationship of forces with which the League began. The operation involves four teams. The Nets send Houston a pack of players and several draft picks, in addition to point guard Caris LeVert, in turn traded for Indiana Pacers forward Victor Oladipo.
Center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince, so far in the Nets, move to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Rockets also get Dante Exum, point guard for the Cavs, and Rodions Kurucs, forward for the Nets. The Brooklyn team, coached by Steve Nash, now brings together three exceptional players, all three among the best scorers in the league. Kevin Durant is averaging 30 points this season; Kyrie Irving, 27; and James Harden, although he has lowered his average to 22 in the eight games he has played at this start of the season with the Rockets, in the three previous seasons he was the top scorer in the competition, with an average of 30.4 in 2018, 36 , 1 in 2019 and 34.3 in 2020.
The Rockets completely changed their project at the end of last season, trading Russell Westbrook for John Wall with the Washington Wizards. They also changed their coach. They dispensed with Mike D’Antoni and bet on Stephen Silas, when Harden opted for Tyronn Lue, now in the Clippers, or John Lucas. The Beard, as Harden is nicknamed, then slipped: “It’s very, very frustrating. Especially for the amount of work that I put in individually. I feel like a piece is missing ”. He requested the transfer. He did not hesitate to make his discontent evident. He joined the team late this season. He violated health protocols after enjoying a party in Las Vegas. And when he returned to training, he was visibly overweight.
MVP and three times leading scorer
The one who has been three times the NBA’s top scorer and MVP of the 2017-2018 season, came to the Texan team in the 2012-2013 season. Since then, the Rockets have always qualified for the playoffs, although they were left with honey on their lips, twice conference finalists and three semi-finalists, most recently in September.
Before the start of the season, Harden met in Los Angeles with Kevin Durant – with whom he was teammates in Oklahoma City – and Kyrie Irving, the two stars of the Nets. From there, the soap opera began. Harden asked to be transferred to Brooklyn. The strategy is reminiscent of that of LeBron James when in June 2010 he left Cleveland to form with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the trio that was going to win two of the next four finals that Miami played. Or Kevin Durant, when he left Oklahoma City to join Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at Golden State. The difference is that Harden still had a contract with the Rockets until 2023.
The new managers of the franchise tried to keep it going. Sporting Director Rafael Stone said: “For the last eight years, our goal has been to win a championship because we had James Harden. Our goal is still to win a championship ”. Houston tried it all and gave Harden the opportunity to be the first player in the league to earn $ 50 million a year, during two contract extension seasons, which would have added to the 133 he still has to earn for his current commitment. La Barba rejected the agreement and did not stop until the transfer was achieved.
Cousins: “He disrespected us with his antics”
DeMarcus Cousins, center of the Rockets, criticized Harden for considering that his behavior in recent weeks was deplorable. La Barba pushed until the last moment and, after Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, he declared: “The Rockets are not good enough. I don’t think the situation can be fixed ”. Cousins responded: “His way of getting on the court, his antics off it, and the way he disrespected us started long before this game. It’s the unpleasant part of this business. “