“The sense I get from the Rockets is that their ambition, their goal, their hope is no longer about salvaging the relationship with James Harden and kind of getting him on board,” said Tim MacMahon on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Show. “There’s a realization, you know, his mind is made up. He wants out and there is a determination to say, ‘Okay, we get it. This happens in the NBA, but just because James Harden wants out doesn’t mean he gets to dictate where and for what [he’s traded].’
“James Harden got to dictate the Russell Westbrook trade last summer. Tilman [Fertitta] liked it too at the time. Don’t get me wrong. James Harden was the driving force behind that trade. That was no secret.
“Harden doesn’t get to say where he’s traded and basically force the Rockets to take a package that is 60 cents on the dollar for a perennial MVP candidate. I think what the Rockets are doing right now is they’re prepping for the post-Harden rebuild.”
There was plenty of optimism last offseason when the Rockets acquired Westbrook to play alongside Harden, and some even felt the team could reach the NBA Finals.
Instead, after a flurry of midseason roster moves, Houston fell well short of its goal by losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the second round of the playoffs.
In general, it looks like the Rockets want a young star of some sort for Harden.
“A package for Harden, and listen, this thing has accelerated a lot faster than I anticipated it would,” said MacMahon. “These things are all fluid. We understand that. What the Rockets are saying is, ‘We need a young franchise cornerstone type of player and a Jrue Holiday-like package of picks. That’s where conversations have to start.’ And do you see a young franchise cornerstone caliber player on the Nets? Do you consider Caris LeVert either young or a franchise cornerstone?”
Trading Harden may be part of the Rockets fully hitting the proverbial reset button. Westbrook also seems to want to leave Houston, although the trade market for him doesn’t exactly seem strong.