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 agreed to acquire the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in a move he has sought for weeks, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
Harden is the centerpiece of a four-team deal that also involves Indiana and Cleveland, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade call with the NBA — which signs off on all deals — has not been completed.
Once the deal is completed, the Nets will 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 provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both franchises, 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, the person said. Other key players: Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris LeVert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana, the person said, adding that Cleveland was also part of the massive trade. The Cavaliers will get Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets in the deal, a person familiar with the trade told the AP.
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.”
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 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.
The disgruntled superstar 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.” He was then asked what he thought about Harden saying the Rockets are “just not good enough.”
“That’s hard to hear, especially when you don’t believe it and you know it not to be true,” said Silas, who noted he didn’t sleep at all on Tuesday night.
The Nets were ready to swoop in, after a shaky defense 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 for personal reasons. 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.
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, still putting him among the leaders but obviously well off his usual pace.
He’s averaged at least 25 points per game in each of his eight full seasons with the Rockets, but he has never been able to get the team, which hasn’t won a title since winning two straight in 1994-95, past the Western Conference finals.
Harden reported late for camp. He also was fined $50,000 earlier this season for conduct detrimental to the league related to him not following the health and safety protocols put into place by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association for navigating a season during the pandemic.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds and Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.