James Harden, the NBA’s 2018 MVP, had been told to stay away from Houston Rockets’ practice after publicly venting frustration at team performances; watch Rockets @ Spurs live on Sky Sports this Friday
James Harden has been traded to Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets, the Nets announced on Thursday, after the eight-time All-Star’s relationship with the Western Conference team broke down this week.
Harden, the NBA’s MVP in 2018, said the Rockets were “just not good enough” this season as they sit second-bottom in the Western Conference with a 3-6 record, prompting the 31-year-old to say the situation could not be fixed.
Harden’s arrival at the Nets reunites him with forward Kevin Durant – they were team-mates at Oklahoma City Thunder – and guard Kyrie Irving, as the franchise look to form their own All-star trio.
“Adding an All-NBA player such as James to our roster better positions our team to compete against the league’s best,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
“James is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in our game, and we are thrilled to bring his special talents to Brooklyn.”
The trade deal also involves the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Nets center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince moving to the Cavaliers while guard Caris LeVert and forward Rodions Kurucs join the Rockets.
US media reported LeVert is expected to move to the Indiana Pacers in an exchange deal for All-Star Victor Oladipo.
The Nets, sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 7-6 record, also sent three first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) to Houston.
Big star, big aspirations, big move. James Harden and the blockbuster trade he forced is all of that and more, writes Shaun Powell.
Everyone knew the meteor was going to hit. It was just a matter of when and how much of a dent it would make on the NBA Earth. And a sizable one it was. Harden leaves the Rockets, joins a fresh Big Three in Brooklyn and two other teams pitched in with the deal to get their share of the pie.
While multiple players and future first-round picks galore were scattered about, the centerpiece of course is an MVP and three-time scoring champ who, after eight seasons in Houston, had had enough.
The Rockets never reached the NBA Finals with Harden, trying and failing to find him a co-star that could help over that time. Harden went through Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, and now gets to try his luck with former MVP and Oklahoma City team-mate Durant and – depending on his situation – Irving.
There is a lot to sort through, and a picture that will eventually develop once the trade dust settles. (Keep in mind that, because of the picks involved – they stretch to 2027 – anyone wanting to instantly see a final verdict will be very disappointed.)
Here’s a sense of what the various teams and players involved are feeling at the moment.
After agreeing a franchise-altering trade, the Rockets travel to face the San Antonio Spurs for the first of two match-ups between the teams.
The blockbuster trade came less than 24 hours after Harden declared the Rockets were “not even close, honestly” to the league’s top competition. Houston are coming off back-to-back blowout losses at home to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Christian Wood led the Rockets with 18 points in Tuesday’s loss, and Harden scored 16 points but made just five of his 16 shots. Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points each, Ben McLemore hit for 11 and John Wall scored 10 for Houston.
The Spurs head home off perhaps their most complete game of the year to face the struggling Rockets. They won four times on their recent five-game road trip, which wrapped up on Tuesday with a 112-102 victory in Oklahoma City.
San Antonio won despite the absence of leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who missed his second straight game for personal reasons.
“It was a great win, 4-1 on the road trip, a few guys missing, and they dug down deep and played a really good team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“[They] had to work and grind it out, especially on the last game of a road trip, so I was really proud of them.”
Lonnie Walker IV led San Antonio with 24 points in the win over the Thunder, with Keldon Johnson hitting for 18, Patty Mills scoring 17 points, Dejounte Murray hitting for 16, LaMarcus Aldridge pouring in 13 points and taking 10 rebounds, and Rudy Gay tallying 12 points off the bench.
Balanced scoring has been one of the keys for San Antonio during their recent surge, as has strong defense and taking care of the basketball.
The Spurs committed a season-low four turnovers and turned 13 Oklahoma City turnovers into 26 points in Tuesday’s win.
“If I [could], I’d bottle it,” Popovich said about the team’s low turnovers. “It’s not like we have done no-turnover drills. They have just taken care of the ball really well. We have done nothing special. We have called a few more plays to get them a little bit more organised, so it is a little bit less frantic than in the past.”
Danuel House missed his fifth straight game for Houston and was not with the team on Tuesday because of health and safety protocols. Houston play five of their next six games on the road.