Stuck in a rock and a Harden place

Posted on Dec 14 2020

James Harden forcing a trade from Houston is like trying to get catsup out of a bottle—it’ll come out just one way: Messy!

Harden is taking a page out of Jimmy Butler’s playbook when the now Miami Heat star wanted out of the dysfunctional Minnesota Timberwolves. But don’t hold your breath on the 2018 MVP leaving H-Town anytime soon.

You see, the Rockets already shipped out a former MVP and triple-double machine in Russell Westbrook and trading The Beard would just cement Houston’s reputation as the biggest losers of the offseason.

Even before Brodie was traded to the Washington Wizards for John Wall, the Rockets were already smarting from the twin losses of coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey.

D’Antoni is now an assistant coach to former ward, Steve Nash, in Brooklyn, while Morey is now the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers.

And to put more salt on the wound, the three-time scoring champion has shortlisted those two exact teams as his destinations of choice if he ever is traded this offseason.

It really seems like Harden is trying to turn Houston fans against him in hopes that management will just give up and send him to any of his preferred teams ala-Jimmy Buckets. Case in point, is he reportedly partied in a strip club without a mask prior to the start of training camp. Of course, that nocturnal pursuit raised a red flag and Houston subsequently held him off from joining training camp as he had to go through mandated COVID-19 quarantine.

It’s not exactly Butler going 5-on-5 against T’Wolves cornerstones Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins with a bunch of scrubs and thoroughly dominating them, but Harden seems hell-bent in humiliating Houston owner Tilman Fertitta with his recent antics.

Houston then played its first preseason game against the woeful Chicago Bulls last Saturday with Harden absent. But the Rockets hardly missed him as reclamation projects and former Kentucky Wildcats teammates Wall and Demarcus Cousins showed the way in a 21-point victory.

Harden has since rejoined the team and I wouldn’t be surprised if The Beard tried to out-Jimmy Jimmy Butler by teaming up with Houston’s ball boys and challenge coach Stephen Silas’ first five in a scrimmage.

As it stands, the former Arizona State star, who was picked third overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the OKC Thunder, has added two more teams he would like to suit up for as aside from the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, Harden also wants to continue his career with the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.

Harden can end up with the 76ers and Nets, but I bet that Philadelphia and Brooklyn would have to pay through the nose before landing the eight-time NBA All-Star, as there’s no love lost between Fertitta and D’Antoni and more so with Morey.

A trade for Harden would have to start with either Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, while talks with the 76ers won’t go nowhere without putting Ben Simmons on the trading blocks.

For the Heat, the Rockets would demand no other than last season’s NBA Playoff wunderkind Tyler Herro as the centerpiece of a trade that would most certainly include 3-point marksman Duncan Robinson, veterans Andre Iguodala and Kelly Olynyk, and at least a couple of future first round draft picks.

If I were Pat Riley, I’d nix the proposed trade right from the get-go, as none of Harden’s previous actuations scream of Heat Culture and the fit would be wobbly at best. Plus, Herro has the potential of becoming the second coming of Devin Booker or even Klay Thompson and no way I’m trading that for a soon-to-be 32-year-old ball-dominant player who’s perfected the art of matador defense.

Harden picking Milwaukee as a desired destination is more for leverage than anything else. Aside from the fact that the Bucks already unloaded a million draft picks in trading for Jrue Holiday in the offseason, Harden doesn’t particularly like Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Flashback to last year’s NBA All-Star Game when East All-Stars captain Antetokounmpo said “I want someone that’s going to pass the ball” after he was asked why he didn’t pick The Beard as a teammate.

Harden was also a bit snappy with his retort when he said “I wish I could be 7 feet and run and just dunk” in an obvious jab on Antetokounmpo’s limited offensive game.

Whatever happens to Harden in the next couple of weeks—or even months—always makes great NBA theater and I’m glad I’m here for the ride! Hang tight folks, the NBA’s about to start in a couple of weeks on Dec. 22.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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