Despite Tuesday’s report the Nets have a “verbal agreement” in place to acquire James Harden from Houston, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon hears the Rockets are in no rush to trade the former MVP and apparently the same sentiment applies to his backcourt-mate Russell Westbrook.
Unhappy with the team’s direction following the departures of head coach Mike D’Antoni and longtime general manager Daryl Morey, both members of the Rockets’ superstar duo are reportedly seeking a change of scenery. Harden, who is eying a reunion with D’Antoni (Steve Nash’s lead assistant) and former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, recently turned down a two-year, $103-million contract extension, a deal that would have made him the highest-paid player in league history.
The Rockets are amenable to moving Harden and Westbrook at the right price, but MacMahon warns not to expect a speedy resolution. In the absence of a godfather offer, it appears the Rockets will stand pat until their sky-high asking price is met. That might make things “uncomfortable” in Houston, but new GM Rafael Stone is willing to go that route, refusing to deal his disgruntled megastars for pennies on the dollar.
Harden has apparently zeroed in on Brooklyn as his preferred landing spot, but according to MacMahon, Houston feels “no obligation” to accommodate his request. Time is theoretically on the Rockets’ side as Harden and Westbrook each have two years remaining on their current contracts. The Wizards have emerged as early frontrunners in the escalating Westbrook sweepstakes, offering up their own All-Star guard John Wall as potential trade compensation. While Westbrook’s price is considerably lower than Harden’s, the two-time NBA scoring champ will still command a major haul, meaning Washington will likely have to sweeten the pot.
While waiting for better offers to materialize on the Harden and Westbrook fronts, Houston made a splash earlier this week by trading three-and-D staple Robert Covington to Portland in exchange for veteran Trevor Ariza (now in his third tour of duty for Houston) and a first-round pick in each of the next two drafts. The Rockets will pick 16th overall in Wednesday night’s draft held at ESPN Studios in Connecticut.