On Tuesday night, after a Houston Rockets loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden blasted the Rockets talent and chemistry, saying that the team isn’t “good enough” and the situation couldn’t be fixed.
On Wednesday morning, the Rockets’ DeMarcus Cousins told reporters that the disrespect from Harden had started long before Tuesday night.
By Wednesday afternoon Harden was no longer a member of the Rockets.
In a four-team deal between Houston, the Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers that includes many draft picks and moving parts, the Rockets sent Harden to Brooklyn where he’ll be reunited with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant.
Who goes where?
Here’s what each team is receiving, according to multiple reports:
Brooklyn — James Harden
Houston — From Brooklyn, Rodions Kurucs, three unprotected first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027. Victor Oladipo from the Pacers. Dante Exum from the Cavaliers.
Cleveland — Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn.
Indiana — Caris LeVert (acquired by Houston from Brooklyn) and a Rockets second-round pick.
What does this mean for the West?
On the surface it would seem like taking James Harden out of the Western Conference is good news for other teams in the West. But the Rockets had already brought in Cousins and John Wall and have now added Oladipo, so it’s not like Houston has a roster of scrubs. They could very well still be a contending team in the West.
And there could still be more moves on the horizon that could include Western Conference teams. The Nets are left with three open roster spots, the Cavaliers now have a massive amount of front court players on their roster, and there’s no guarantee that Oladipo’s final landing spot is Houston (he can be traded again between March 4 and the March 25 trade deadline).
So the power balance hasn’t shifted much in the West because of this trade, but future moves could end up having a more profound effect.
If nothing else, Utah Jazz fans can breath a sigh of relief in knowing that they won’t have to face Russell Westbrook or James Harden unless it’s in an *NBA Finals matchup.
*I do not believe that the Washington Wizards will get anywhere near the Finals but wouldn’t count out the Brooklyn Nets.
What does this mean for the rest of the league?
Wednesday’s moves are bound to have ripple effects throughout the league.
For starters, the Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly in heavy discussions with the Rockets in trying to create a package for Harden that would include Ben Simmons. Sixers president of basketball operations and former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told reporters in the offseason that he was not interested in trading Simmons but that seemed to not be the case on Wednesday. Whether Simmons feels a certain way about being on the trade block remains to be seen.
The monthslong saga in Houston — which began with Harden requesting a trade in the offseason and led to Harden showing up late to training camp and knowingly violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols on multiple occasions and then calling the situation unfixable — has now ended, but that doesn’t mean that life is going to be puppies and rainbows in Brooklyn.
The Nets are already dealing with their own drama with Kyrie Irving, who has been absent from the team for more than a week for unknown “personal reasons,” and the league is investigating a video that appeared to show Irving at a birthday party without a mask on.
While there is no doubt that a Nets squad of Irving, Durant and Harden will be able to put up offensive stats at a ridiculous rate, there are concerns about the Nets being able to play any sort of meaningful defense. The larger concern though is whether or not the three stars will be able to coexist together in any sort of harmonious way. They’ll have to all be present to even begin to find out.
The Cavaliers and Pacers both seem to have made out pretty nicely considering being on the fringes of the trade. The Cavs are rounding into one of the most interesting young and developing teams with a ton of raw talent, and the Pacers got a little younger with LeVert. But both teams probably remain middling or lower tier in the East considering the competition.
The Nets will immediately be viewed as even more of a favorite in the East after acquiring Harden, but personalities and egos will probably be the deciding factors in how well this all works out.