The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade the All-Star guard James Harden to the Nets in a four-team deal — just one day after a disgruntled Harden publicly described the Rockets as “not good enough.”
The trade, which will reunite Harden with the Nets’ Kevin Durant and send Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo plus four future first-round picks to Houston, was confirmed by a person close to Harden with knowledge of the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. ESPN first reported the agreement between the Rockets and the Nets; The Athletic first reported Indiana’s involvement in the trade.
Harden had been seeking a trade since November. He reported a week late to the Rockets’ training camp and had the Nets at the top of his list of preferred destinations since his desire to leave Houston after eight full seasons there had become widely known. But the Nets, to add Harden to their existing star duo of Durant and Kyrie Irving, had to fend off strong competition from the 76ers. Philadelphia’s new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, has a relationship with Harden after bringing him to Houston through a trade in 2012 when he was the general manager of the Rockets.
The Sixers had been trying to acquire Harden in trade packages built around the All-Star guard Ben Simmons, according to two people familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. The Rockets instead assembled the four-team trade with the Nets, Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers to bring Oladipo to Houston in the final year of his contract — but also to get a package of first-round picks.
The uncertainty surrounding Irving, who hasn’t played since Jan. 5 for personal reasons, made the Nets even more eager to find a workable trade for Harden in recent days, according to one of the people.
The trade calls for the Nets’ promising forward Caris LeVert to go to Indiana and for two other Nets — Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince — to go to Cleveland. The Rockets will also receive Cleveland’s Dante Exum and the Nets’ Rodions Kurucs in addition to three first-round picks from the Nets (2022, 2024 and 2026) and Cleveland’s first-round pick (via Milwaukee) in 2022. Houston will have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027 drafts.
Harden won three scoring titles and the 2018 Most Valuable Player Award in Houston and led the team to the Western Conference finals twice in his first eight seasons there. Yet he was ordered away from the team Wednesday and told not to come to practice in the hours before the trade after blasting the quality of Houston’s roster.
“We’re just not good enough,” Harden said Tuesday after the Rockets’ 117-100 loss to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. “I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. The situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
Harden’s unhappiness in Houston had festered since the team lost to the Lakers in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last season. Morey and Mike D’Antoni, who was Houston’s head coach last season and is now a Nets assistant, left the Rockets after the season. Houston also traded Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall after Harden and Westbrook had played together for just one season.
Harden, 31, had only grown more distant in the wake of all those changes and averaged just 17.4 points on 37.8 percent shooting from the field in Houston’s last five games, four of them losses, under the first-year coach Stephen Silas.