NBA rumors: James Harden trade not imminent, despite unhealthy environment in Houston

By Matt Johnson
Dec 17, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball during the second quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

NBA rumors: James Harden and the Houston Rockets are set to hit the floor on Saturday night for their first game of the 2020-’21 NBA season. As the team readies to take the court short-handed, amid a COVID-19 outbreak, new rumors are swirling regarding when a Harden trade may happen.

The ongoing saga between Harden and the Rockets has stretched on for weeks, with the star still demanding a trade out of Houston. Even as his list of preferred destinations continues to grow, it seems his willingness to move elsewhere isn’t accelerating trade talks.

NBA rumors: Latest on potential James Harden trade

When James Harden firstĀ requested a trade, he immediately sought to play for the Brooklyn Nets. However, with the Nets unable to offer Houston the franchise-caliber player it sought, the former NBA MVP had to expand his list of preferred destinations.

He later added the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to his trade list. After more than a week of negotiations, Miami pulled out of the running. With trade talks still going nowhere and the NBA season underway, Harden added the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics to his ideal landing spots.

While his trade list is growing, it seems the likelihood of a trade happening in the immediate is taking a hit. After the NBA’s Christmas Day slate, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski made it clear that a blockbuster deal isn’t imminent.

“I think it has a chance to continue into the foreseeable future. The Rockets know that to make a James Harden trade they’ve got to get maximum value back in the trade market,” Wojnarowski said, via ESPN. “They don’t need to rush this process. Obviously, they do have him under contract for two more years. They don’t want this cloud to hang over them, it is a difficult situation in Houston right now for them to function.”

Harden has caused plenty of issues for the Rockets since his return. The eight-time All-Star skipped practices, violated COVID-19 protocols and has caused some issues in the locker room. Tensions have started boiling over in Houston and the situation is becoming toxic.

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Despite the situation deteriorating, the Rockets have held onto Harden and insisted on a very specific asking price before even considering a blockbuster trade.

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While plenty of NBA contenders would love to pull off a James Harden trade, few have the resources to acquire him. The Brooklyn Nets have offered the most quantity, in terms of young talent, but the Rockets want a young star and a deal with Brooklyn is reportedly doubtful.

As for the Philadelphia 76ers, the team is reportedly willing to move point guard Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old is a two-time All-Star and would give the Rockets a cornerstone to build around. However, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has denied that Simmons would be moved and the Rockets might want more young talent to pair with him in a return.

NBA rumors: Teams hesitant about James Harden trade

The Denver Nuggets also reached out to Houston, gauging the possibility of a blockbuster trade. In those talks, though, the Rockets insisted on Michael Porter Jr. coming over the deal. He is Houston’s top target from the Nuggets. Right now, Denver isn’t willing to move the 22-year-old forward and that is a dealbreaker for the Rockets.

As Wojnarowski reported on Friday night, the Rockets simply don’t view any of the deals they’ve been offered as good enough. Because of that, a James Harden trade seems unlikely to happen for a few more weeks.