Houston appears to have a problem. The Rockets have already parted ways with their former general manager Darryl Morey and former head coach Mike D'Antoni. And now, their top two players appear ready to leave, too. Russell Westbrook has already requested a trade; James Harden initially had no qualms about staying in Houston, though he's quickly changed his tune.
Harden has now made it abundantly obvious he no longer wishes to play for the Rockets. The team offered him a two-year, $103 million extension, which he declined. That extension would have made Harden the first player to ever receive at least $50 million in a season.
With three years and $132.9 million remaining on his current deal, Harden will still make plenty of money. But as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports, Harden is turning down the extension so the Rockets will trade him to the Brooklyn Nets.
Sources: After turning down an extension offer to become the first $50M a year player in league history, James Harden's message to Houston is clear: Get me to Brooklyn. Rockets and Nets have been in contact, but there's been no meaningful dialogue. https://t.co/qwJOQOxz5U
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 17, 2020
If the two teams are able to orchestrate a trade, Harden would join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. The resulting trio would make the Nets an immediate favorite to win next year's championship.
Sure, Harden, Irving, and Durant all operate at their best with the ball in their hands. But Harden has put up his best offensive seasons in Houston playing alongside ball-dominant guards in Chris Paul and Westbrook.
Wojnarowski further reported that the Rockets and Nets haven't "engaged in meaningful dialogue" about a trade. The Rockets want a tremendous amount of assets in return for Harden. They're willing to wait for that trade to come — and understandably so, as Harden is arguably a top-five player in the league.
The fact that Harden still has multiple years remaining on his deal gives Houston plenty of leverage, too. Their star can opt out in 2022, but that's still time to wait for the right trade offer. Harden views Brooklyn as a two-year window into winning a championship before deciding on his next career move.
He's already 31 years old and hasn't won a title. And it looks like Houston is quickly going from championship contender to rebuilding mode. So maybe there's some silver lining here. After all, the Rockets will likely get a quality package back for Harden, whether from the Nets or another team. And they can save the money they would have given him for another star or multiple role players.
The situation is deteriorating in Houston, but Harden has made one thing obvious: at this stage of his career, he values rings over dollars.