After a few weeks of wavering, James Harden has made up his mind. He wants to play for the Brooklyn Nets and is focused on forcing the Houston Rockets to trade him there so he can form a superteam alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and compete for a title.
Harden’s desire to play for the Nets is so strong that he turned down a historic contract extension offer from the Rockets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Rockets’ offer would have made Harden the first player in league history to make $50 million per year.
As Harden’s conversations with the Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ramped up in recent weeks on the West Coast, sources say the Rockets made a pitch for him to sign the maximum allowable extension — two years and $103 million on top of the remaining three years, $133 million on his current deal.
Unfortunately for Harden, it’s a lot easier to demand a trade than it is to make one happen. So far there have been no serious discussions between the Rockets and Nets, and there are multiple issues in the way of a deal. For one, the Rockets have Harden under contract for multiple years and have no desire to trade him, and the Nets do not have the assets to pull off a trade of such magnitude.
Still, Harden is determined to make it happen.
Harden believes his window to chase championships in Houston has ended, and constructing a super team with the Nets represents his best pathway to a title, sources said. Harden can become a free agent in 2022 if he opts out of the final year of his contract — and sources say that Brooklyn represents a two-year play to win a title before deciding on the next steps in his career.
On the one hand, the Davis situation was somewhat unique considering the team he wanted to play for had legitimate assets to trade for a superstar. At the same time, it also showed that the truly elite players are able to make things happen in this league when they throw their weight around.
So while there’s still a number of obstacles — no real trade talks, the Nets’ lack of necessary trade pieces — that would seem to make this deal something of a long shot, we also can’t write it off. Things have already changed rapidly since the first rumblings of Harden’s interest in the Nets, to the point that he’s now demanding a trade there. Houston softening their stance, or the inclusion of a third team in the talks could take things in a completely different direction before we know it.
The truth is we really just don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, especially with such a condensed offseason period. But if the past few days are any indication, we’re in for an exciting time.