NBA

Rockets trade James Harden to Nets in blockbuster 4-team deal

The Brooklyn Nets have acquired three-time scoring champion James Harden from the Houston Rockets, a deal that reunites him with Kevin Durant and gives him the move that he has sought for weeks.

Brooklyn reunites 3-time scoring champion with Kevin Durant

Less than 24 hours after James Harden appeared to deliver a farewell address to the city of Houston, the 3-time scoring champion was reportedly dealt to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a 4-team deal on Wednesday. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

James Harden is heading to Brooklyn, joining old teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to give the Nets a potent trio of the some of the NBA's highest scorers.

The Nets officially acquired the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets on Thursday in a move he has sought for weeks.

Harden is the centrepiece of a four-team deal that also involves Indiana and Cleveland.

The Nets will now be able to trot out a lineup of three players capable of scoring 25 or more points on any night in a collection of firepower to rival any Big Three in recent years.

"It's an amazing move for Brooklyn. Obviously, they got better — way better," said two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee.

They are loading up for a title run with three of the highest-paid players in the league. All are under contract through 2022-23, with Harden and Durant both set to earn more than $40 million US in each of the next two seasons.

In the meantime, the Nets were short-handed for their game against the New York Knicks, where coach Steve Nash declined to discuss Harden but did confirm that the players the Nets were trading were not in the building.

Off to a 6-6 start in his rookie season, now the former point guard and two-time league MVP will have to mould an offence that keeps the ball moving with three players worthy of having it in their hands.

"It's a simple game but it becomes complicated when you put different personalities and players on the floor," Nash said. "Our group's done a really good job being unselfish this year and trying to move the ball and work together so I've been proud of that."

Trade ends period of drama

The blockbuster deal provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both franchises. It was struck less than 24 hours after Harden seemed to deliver a farewell address of sorts following the Rockets' loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, and just before Irving was set to miss a fifth straight game during a personal absence from the Nets.

At least four draft picks and additional pick swaps are also part of the deal. Other key players: Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris LeVert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana, the person said. The Cavaliers receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets in the deal.

Harden, who has cycled through Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook as teammates in recent seasons, didn't think much of the roster the Rockets had around him this season.

"We're just not good enough ... I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can," Harden said Tuesday night. "I mean, this situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

WATCH | Anyone's Game featuring Orangeville Prep:

How Orangeville prep is changing the game for Canadian basketball talent

Sports

5 days agoVideo
5:29
Anyone’s Game is available to stream on CBC Gem Friday January 15th. The series follows Orangeville Prep, an elite Canadian basketball academy that produces star talent. Vivek Jacob catches up with Coach Tony McIntyre, and player Shemar Rathan-Mayes about the OrangEville prep affect on Canadian basketball. 5:29

It couldn't, and now he's gone.

Brooklyn expects Harden to leave all that behind him and that his transition to the Nets is smooth. He should be much happier in Brooklyn, having teamed with Durant in Oklahoma City when they were younger and remaining close still.

"It was fun," Durant said of their time together, declining to say much more with the trade still not completed at the time.

It was obvious the end was nearing Wednesday, when the Rockets told him they didn't want him at practice after his inflammatory comments about the team.

"We felt it was best for James and best for the group for him not to come to practice," first-year coach Stephen Silas said. About two hours later, ESPN and The Athletic first reported that Harden was being moved.

'Messed up situation'

The disgruntled superstar, who was unable to get the Rockets past the Western Conference finals, had remained quiet through months of reports that he was unhappy in Houston. Silas called the drama surrounding Harden an "all-around messed up situation."

The Nets were ready to swoop in, after a shaky defence during the early season proved their best chance to beat teams might be to outscore them.

They can certainly do that now. Durant is averaging 29.9 points in his first season back from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon, and Irving was scoring 27.1 per game before leaving the team last week. Harden, who appears to be out of shape after joining the Rockets after training camp began, is averaging 24.8 this season after three straight seasons above 30, culminating in MVP honours in 2018.

The Rockets are just 3-6 so far this season and only Minnesota has a worse record in the Western Conference. The team is clearly in disarray and new arrival John Wall called the situation "rocky."

Harden won each of the last three scoring titles by notable margins — 2.3 points over Anthony Davis in 2017-18, 8.1 points over Paul George in 2018-19 and 3.8 points over Bradley Beal last season. His average so far this season ranked 18th in the NBA, well off his usual pace.

It could pick back up again in Brooklyn, where Nash's assistant running the offence is Mike D'Antoni, Harden's coach during his best seasons in Houston.

D'Antoni didn't return after last season and it quickly became clear Harden wanted to be gone, too. He was a no-show when camp opened and was later fined $50,000 for conduct detrimental to the league after attending an indoor event without a mask in violation of the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now