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#pounditFriday, January 22, 2021

James Harden

Udonis Haslem hints he did not want James Harden on Heat

Udonis Haslem

The Miami Heat’s pursuit of James Harden ultimately fell through, and their most respected veteran actually sounds pretty pleased that it did.

Appearing this week on “The Complex Sports Podcast,” Heat big man Udonis Haslem indicated that he did not want Harden on the Heat.

“I knew we wasn’t gonna get him,” said Haslem. “I mean, you can’t bring James Harden to Miami. As much as I wanted that to work out, in my mind, I was like, ‘Ain’t no way.’

“I would’ve aged 15 years trying to be his O.G.,” the 40-year-old Haslem continued. “He would’ve had to move me into the guest house.”

Harden, who ended up being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, is a former MVP winner and one of the marquee players in the NBA today. But he also comes with major concerns about his off-the-court antics as well as his work ethic.

The Heat pride themselves on their culture based around hard work and accountability. Haslem has been a bedrock of that culture for the last 18 seasons. Thus, his concerns about Harden’s fit in Miami are hardly a shock.

Ex-James Harden teammate calls him ‘misunderstood’

James Harden

James Harden has become one of the bigger villains in the NBA today, but one of his former teammates does not agree with that characterization at all.

Retired NBA guard and current University of Arizona assistant Jason Terry discussed Harden in an interview with Zach Braziller of the New York Post over the weekend.

“I just think he’s misunderstood,” said Terry. “I know those same guys who have won those championships, and they enjoyed themselves as well in the same fashion as James.”

Terry also said that, while Harden liked to have a good time, he also understood the importance of team bonding and camaraderie over a long season. He also said that, if anything, Harden brought the team closer together by organizing nights out.

The 43-year-old Terry played 19 seasons in the league. Two of those were with Harden on the Houston Rockets from 2014 to 2016. They were a playoff team in both years, including a Western Conference Finals berth in 2015.

Harden’s partying is a bit more problematic in the current climate. But it does not sound like Terry is concerned about Harden’s overall ability to be a good teammate on the Brooklyn Nets.

Look: James Harden looking skinny for his Nets debut

James Harden fat

James Harden looked out of shape and unmotivated when he began the season with the Houston Rockets. He already looks like a different person — literally — in his debut for the Brooklyn Nets.

Harden was photographed during warmups before the Nets’ game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday. He somehow appeared to be noticeably slimmer, especially compared to how he looked recently.

So what is going on here? Was that just a good angle in the Nets photo? Were the other two photos from him with the Rockets deceiving? Or did Harden go on a huge hunger strike as part of his demands to get traded?

It was only a week ago that an announcer was taking a shot at Harden over his weight. Now he looks great and in shape. That’s big news for Brooklyn.

James Harden wore a ridiculous outfit for his Nets debut

James Harden

James Harden will make his Brooklyn Nets debut on Saturday night, but the star guard made some sort of statement before he even set foot on the floor.

Harden’s bizarre choice of outfit, particularly his shirt, got plenty of attention as he arrived for Saturday’s game. The look was variously compared to a kitchen apron, a diner tablecloth, and a blouse.

One thing is certain: Harden looks to be in pretty good shape here. At the very least, it’s a far cry from what he appeared to look like earlier in the season.

Believe it or not, this may not even be the strangest pregame outfit Harden has put on display in his NBA career.

Report shows just how close Sixers came to acquiring James Harden

James Harden

A James Harden-Daryl Morey reunion in Philadelphia actually came a lot closer to happening than you might think.

Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer reported Friday that the 76ers thought that they had a deal for Harden done. Pompey adds that Morey, the team’s general manager, pushed hard to acquire the former MVP. The agents for Sixers youngsters Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle even informed their clients of an expected trade.

Harden instead ended up going to the Brooklyn Nets in a multi-team blockbuster. The trade ultimately sent guard Victor Oladipo, forward Rodions Kurucs, and a large haul of picks back to the Rockets.

It does seem rather head-scratching on paper why the Rockets accepted a package based around Oladipo and Kurucs instead of a seemingly superior package headlined by Simmons and Thybulle.

But as for why the trade with the Sixers ultimately fell through, we have a pretty good idea of that much.

James Harden has classic response to question about his conditioning

James Harden gut

James Harden spoke with the media on Friday for the first time since he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. It wasn’t long before the former MVP was asked about his conditioning, and Harden’s reaction certainly made it seem like he has seen all the memes about him.

Harden couldn’t help but bust out a huge smile when a reporter asked him to describe his conditioning level at this point in the season. He only gave a one-word response, but his reaction said it all.

Harden reported to the Houston Rockets late during the offseason, and people immediately took note of how out of shape he looked (check out this photo). Even a famous actor made a joke at Harden’s expense.

That was a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t look like Harden is in any better shape now. A TV announcer cracked a joke about his weight during warmups before Houston’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. You can see that video here.

Report: Rockets owner was ‘adamant’ about not trading James Harden to 76ers

Tilman Fertitta

The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly the two finalists to acquire James Harden, but did only one of them ever have an actual chance to land the former NBA MVP?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his “Posted Up” podcast this week that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta did not want to trade Harden to Philadelphia. That may have something to do with former Houston general manager Daryl Morey now being the president of basketball operations for the 76ers.

“After that, I was told that Tilman Fertitta – the Houston Rockets owner – he was just adamant that they not make a deal with Philly, obviously with Daryl Morey being the GM over there now,” Haynes said, via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports.

The Rockets ended up trading Harden to the Nets in a multi-team deal. They landed a boatload of picks and also acquired Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers, so it’s certainly possible Brooklyn’s offer was the best one on the table.

Or, perhaps Morey instructed Rockets GM Rafael Stone to not trade Harden to Philly. Stone still could have used the Sixers as a negotiating tactic even if that were the case.

Had the 76ers offered Ben Simmons, even Fertitta may have been willing to take that deal. It does not sound like Simmons was ever on the table, however.

Morey resigned as GM of the Rockets following last season. It initially looked like he was going to take time off to be with his family, but he then signed a deal with the 76ers. Fertitta may have been bitter about how that went down. He also could have been bothered when Morey was fined for tampering with Harden.

Video: Shaq had some harsh comments for James Harden

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O’Neal offered some extremely harsh criticism of James Harden on Thursday night.

O’Neal spoke on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and shared his thoughts on Harden’s exit from Houston. O’Neal specifically questioned whether Harden gave Houston his all, as the guard claimed. Shaq picked apart Harden for his postseason struggles and for not making things work despite the Rockets constantly bringing in players he wanted.

Shaq raised the stakes on Harden, saying if he doesn’t win in Brooklyn this year, “it’s a bust.”

Harden entered the season unhappy with the Rockets and is out of shape. He’s been angling for a trade, and escalated matters with his postgame comments on Tuesday that O’Neal referenced. A day later, the Rockets traded him to Brooklyn in a massive trade (full details here).

Harden forced his way out of Houston, and now the pressure is on him to win big in Brooklyn.

Video: Here is the Rockets’ farewell video to James Harden

James Harden

The final months of James Harden’s Houston Rockets career were difficult and somewhat awkward, but you wouldn’t know it watching the team’s farewell video to the star guard.

A day after Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a three-team blockbuster, the Rockets posted a tribute video to Harden on social media. It highlights Harden’s scoring accomplishments and MVP award and thanks him for his contributions to the organization.

Obviously, the Rockets aren’t going to allude to the last few months in a video like this. The whole thing is pretty straightforward, as one would expect.

Harden’s name is obviously all over the Rockets’ record books, and he will go down as the defining player of the era for the franchise. It’s just easy to lose sight of that right now given the needless drama that has taken place over the last few months, which saw him alienate a lot of people around the organization. The team paid Harden a nice tribute, and now they’re almost certainly ready to move on and look forward.

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

Ben Simmons ‘ecstatic’ not to be traded to Rockets for James Harden

Ben Simmons

James Harden got traded to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday rather than the Philadelphia 76ers, and apparently Ben Simmons is happy about that.

The 76ers and Nets were said to be the two teams in the mix to acquire Harden. Simmons was one of the players who likely would have been included in the deal.

After learning he would remain in Philly, Simmons was “ecstatic,” according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears.

Simmons is playing in his fourth season with Philly (not counting his first year he missed due to injury) and has emerged as an All-Star the last two seasons. The team has a nice core including him, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and some newcomers like Seth Curry, Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey. They also have a new coach in Doc Rivers and GM in Daryl Morey. Simmons has said they can be a “scary” team.

The Sixers have a lot to look forward to, so it’s understandable why Simmons didn’t want to have that disrupted. And here is what the Rockets reportedly wanted in a trade for Harden.