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#pounditMonday, April 12, 2021

James Harden

Report: James Harden ‘highly likely’ to remain with Rockets for a while

James Harden

James Harden has made it clear to the Houston Rockets that he wants to be traded, but leverage is not on the side of the former NBA MVP. At the moment, the Rockets appear to be taking full advantage of that.

Harden has two years remaining on his contract, and the Rockets will need to be blown away to trade him. Sam Amick of The Athletic feels it is “highly likely” that Harden will remain with Houston through the early part of the 2020-21 season and potentially longer. The biggest reason for that is asking price.

Multiple reports have indicated that the Rockets have attached an astronomically high asking price to Harden. According to Amick, they want a combination of an All-Star player, a young prospect and first-round draft picks. Harden is an elite player, but very few — if any — teams are willing to assemble that kind of package.

If any team is eventually going to make a play for Harden, it could be the Philadelphia 76ers. Harden has a close relationship with new Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who was previously the GM of the Rockets. But even Philly is in no rush.

Amick reports that the 76ers want to see what new head coach Doc Rivers can do with their current roster. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid remain off-limits in trade talks, and the Sixers are only willing to acquire Harden if the price is slashed significantly.

Teams are also wary of Harden’s attitude, which is another reason they may not want to mortgage their futures. If you heard the report this week about why Russell Westbrook wanted out of Houston, you can understand the concern.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Report: Russell Westbrook was put off by James Harden’s constant tardiness

Russell Westbrook

James Harden made headlines for his late arrival to training camp this month, and apparently that was far from an isolated incident for him.

In an extensive article Wednesday on the Houston Rockets’ culture in the Harden era, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon revealed that Russell Westbrook was irked last season by Harden’s constant tardiness.

Per MacMahon:

Westbrook didn’t tolerate tardiness. With the Rockets, scheduled departure times were treated as mere suggestions by Harden and others

“Nothing ever starts on time,” a former Rockets staffer said. “The plane is always late. The bus is never on time. … It’s just an organized AAU team.”

On one occasion in the Florida bubble, Harden waited to get his daily COVID-19 testing until just before the Rockets’ film session was scheduled to start. When he wasn’t on time, Westbrook barked, “Start the film! Start without him!” [Then-coach Mike] D’Antoni explained they’d just have to start over when Harden arrived, which didn’t do much to calm Westbrook.

In the article, which is worth reading in its entirety, MacMahon also said that Westbrook was “appalled” by the team’s “casual” culture and that the duo no longer wanted to play together after just one season.

The Rockets went 44-28 (.611) last year, winning their division. They flamed out in the playoffs however, losing in five games in the second round with Westbrook hobbled due to a quad injury. The team then traded Westbrook to Washington for John Wall earlier this month.

The former MVP Harden beefed with his previous co-star in Houston too. The deteroriation of his playing relationship with Westbrook might be more damaging for Harden’s reptuation though because the two had been old buddies on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

James Harden shares reason for late arrival to training camp

James Harden

James Harden spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since arriving at camp with the Houston Rockets, and tried to explain his late arrival.

Harden was asked what he was doing in Atlanta and Las Vegas instead of arriving in camp, saying he was “training,” via Salman Ali of ESPN 97.5 Houston. When asked why he was was in those two cities instead of Houston, his explanation was “my personal trainers.”

Harden also ducked questions about his reported trade request.

“Right now I’m just focused on being here,” Harden said. “Today was good. Yesterday felt really good. First time since the bubble.”

Harden had one telling answer when asked about his trust level in new general manager Rafael Stone. Harden responded by saying he and Stone “haven’t had a conversation.”

It certainly doesn’t sound like much has changed. Harden wants out no matter how he frames it here. His explanation for his late arrival at camp isn’t likely to satisfy anyone, especially given what he was reportedly up to instead. Plus, this viral photo will give critics even more reason to doubt his explanation.

Harden’s lack of communication with Stone also indicates a disconnect with the organization, or at least an unwillingness to clear things up. It all points to Harden’s continued unhappiness and desire to exit.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Report: Russell Westbrook grew tired of James Harden’s attitude

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook and James Harden were optimistic about their reunion when the Houston Rockets acquired the former in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, the two superstars’ second stint as teammates did not exactly go as planned. They may not have been a fit on the court, but there were some issues between Westbrook and Harden off the court as well.

More specifically, Westbrook quickly grew tired of Harden’s casual attitude toward everything. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon published a lengthy piece on Wednesday that dug into the culture the Rockets have allowed Harden to build in recent years, and it is one that Westbrook did not approve of.

As MacMahon describes it, the Thunder “operated with the discipline of a military unit” when Westbrook was their leader. Things are much different in Houston, where Harden frequently charters private jets to party in other cities when the Rockets have a few days off between games.

In one particular instance in the Orlando bubble, Harden was late to a film session because he waited until the last second to get his mandatory COVID-19 test. Westbrook reportedly became irate and shouted at then-head coach Mike D’Antoni to “start without him!” D’Antoni told Westbrook that would just make it so the team had to start over when Harden arrived, which didn’t sit well with Westbrook.

Westbrook and Harden eventually decided they no longer wanted to play together, which is why Russ was traded. Harden also wants out of Houston, though the recent photo we saw of him at training camp may make teams even more hesitant to meet the Rockets’ asking price.

The unusual thing is that Westbrook and Harden played together in Oklahoma City, so you would think they knew what they were getting themselves into. That said, Harden was the Sixth Man of the Year in OKC. He became a full-blown superstar and celebrity in Houston. It seems like that was the main issue for Westbrook.

This photo of James Harden is going viral

James Harden

A photo of James Harden from the Houston Rockets’ preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday is going viral.

The photo shows Harden in his warmups and appearing to look heavier than usual.

The photo of Harden strongly resembled Kendrick Perkins, which was not lost on folks on social media. They had plenty of jokes.

Considering Perkins was listed at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds when he played, resembling him is not a good sign for Harden.

Harden has been viewed by some as “overweight,” though that seems to be more the product of deception than anything else. You don’t consistently average a league-high 38.1 minutes per game as Harden did during his career without being in fantastic shape. But Harden has been doing some partying lately, so he may not be in his best shape as of yet.

James Harden will make preseason debut for Rockets on Tuesday

James Harden

James Harden still wants out of Houston, but it appears he’ll be taking part in preseason action as usual.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas confirmed Monday that Harden will make his preseason debut for the Rockets in Tuesday’s game. Harden has taken part in the team’s light workout as well. That means he has successfully passed the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols and been cleared to take part in team activities.

While there were no explicit rumors about Harden sitting out preseason games, everything seems to need clarifying with him these days. After all, we’d heard that Harden planned to report to camp on time, but we saw how that worked out.

Harden wants a trade, but the Rockets are in no rush to move on his request. That means Tuesday will offer a glimpse of how he could coexist with new backcourt partner John Wall. There’s no reason to believe Harden won’t open the season with Houston, so him getting preseason minutes with his new supporting cast is important, trade request or not.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Report: James Harden still wants trade despite John Wall addition

James Harden

James Harden is expected to practice with the Houston Rockets on Monday after joining the team late, but that does not mean he has changed his stance on wanting a trade.

Harden still wants the Rockets to trade him and has made that clear to the team, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne report. While he doesn’t have anything against John Wall personally, Harden does not feel any differently about his future in Houston even with the addition of the All-Star point guard.

Wojnarowski previously reported that Harden would prefer to play with Wall over Russell Westbrook, but apparently that does not mean Harden has changed his mind about wanting to remain with the Rockets.

Wall said after his preseason debut this weekend that he is hopeful he and Harden “can be a heck of a combination,” but Harden does not share that excitement. Wall initially said after arriving in Houston that he had spoken with Harden and was 100 percent certain the former MVP wants to play for the Rockets. Wall later walked back those comments.

Harden’s preferred trade destination remains the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN. He is also open to playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, but neither team has come close to meeting Houston’s asking price.

Harden reportedly intends to act professionally while the Rockets explore trade possibilities for him. He understands that he doesn’t have much leverage as a player who is under contract for two more seasons. He also knows he could hurt his own trade value if he becomes openly disgruntled.

We know of at least two other teams Harden may want to play for, and that list could grow as the start of the season draws nearer. For now, there has been no indication that the Rockets can change his mind about wanting out.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Report: Heat would have interest in James Harden trade

James Harden

We still do not know if the Houston Rockets will ever be willing to trade James Harden, but if they do, we now know of one team that is clearly interested.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Miami Heat would be interested in trading for Harden if the Rockets decide to move the guard. Harden would also be interested in a trade to the Heat. At least two key unnamed members of the Miami organization are strongly interested in Harden.

The Heat are not concerned about Harden’s ball-dominant style, feeling that is down to Houston’s system and not Harden’s inability to adapt.

In addition, Jackson reports that the Heat would not necessarily be opposed to including Tyler Herro in trade talks, though the Heat still love the player.

For now, this all remains hypothetical until the Rockets become more open to a potential trade. Harden has a growing list of teams he’d be interested in moving to. Some of them would likely make that interest mutual. The Heat, though, are clearly a team to watch.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Stephen Jackson trashes James Harden for late arrival to Rockets camp

James Harden

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson ripped James Harden for his late arrival to Houston Rockets camp, accusing him of undermining new coach Stephen Silas.

Jackson posted audio of himself to his Instagram, stating that Harden is avoiding accountability and is hurting a young Black coach’s career to “chase rappers around.”

“James Harden don’t want to be held accountable. [Mike] D’Antoni is the worst defensive coach in NBA history, ain’t gonna win s—, ain’t won s— as a head coach. He easy to run over. So James is trying to continue to be around close to D’Antoni so he can’t be held accountable,” Jackson said. “The Rockets finally get a young Black coach. A young Black coach get an opportunity, and you don’t want to show up to camp. You don’t want to play for him. How that look? And you wonder why every time a Black coach get a job, they put him in a bulls— situation. Look what you doing.

“What a real one would do is go play for that Black coach and make him look good and build with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, some real ones. But obviously you want to chase rappers around.”

Silas spent his first press conference of camp answering questions about Harden’s absence, so it is fair to say Harden put Silas in a tougher situation than necessary. Jackson is also clearly unimpressed with what Harden was doing instead of showing up to camp. The longer Harden keeps quiet about it, the more we’ll likely hear.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Jimmy Butler reacts to rumors linking James Harden to Heat

Jimmy Butler

Could James Harden join Jimmy Butler in Miami? The Heat star isn’t getting drawn into the rumors.

Harden reportedly added the Heat to his trade wish list, meaning Butler and Harden could end up teaming up in Miami. Butler said he wants Harden to be happy, but is ultimately pleased with his current team.

“There’s a lot of stuff always in the media,” Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I think that he’s a hell of player. I like the group we have. To tell you the truth, I just want the guy to be happy. That’s what life is about. That’s what the game is about.”

It doesn’t sound like Butler plans to do much recruiting, as he has in other instances like this one. Part of that reason is perhaps that the Heat might not be willing to go all-out to make such a deal.

Still, Butler’s comments are a bit less blunt than these remarks by another player whose team has been linked to Harden.