Harden joins Rockets, expected to play Tuesday as he waits for trade landscape to change

0 Comments

James Harden stepped on the court — in Rockets gear, with his Rockets’ teammates — for the first time this season on Monday. He practiced with his team, having cleared the league’s coronavirus protocols and had six consecutive negative tests. He is expected to play Tuesday night in the Rockets preseason game against the Spurs.

Harden may want to get used to this because — as much as he wants a trade — he likely will be wearing this gear and playing with these teammates most of the season. And maybe after the trade deadline, too.

Harden still wants a trade out of Houston, but his clumsy approach to forcing it left the Rockets with leverage and the ability to be patient — Harden has two fully guaranteed years on his contract, there is no pressure. The fact Harden has shown up in Houston, is practicing, and says he will be “professional and engaged” means he’s not willing to go full scorched earth — Jimmy Butler in Minnesota — to get his way.

Harden’s request is continually compared to Anthony Davis forcing his way out of New Orleans, but there are some key differences. First, Davis had a year-and-a-half left on his contract when the talk went public and got serious, and that timeline put some pressure on the Pelicans. With two full years remaining for Harden (plus a $47 million option year), Houston can wait out the market a little.

More importantly, there was a clear suitor for Davis in the Lakers — they wanted him, he wanted to go to Los Angeles. The question ultimately was the price. Harden — at age 31, with a lot of miles on the tires and being up for a massive contract extension in two years — does not have another team desperate to trade for him. Not yet, anyway.

Let’s look at the four teams where Harden reportedly wants to be traded:

• Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn’s offer of Caris LeVert/Spencer Dinwiddie/Jarrett Allen and some picks does not meet the “we want to still compete” unrealistic expectations of owner Tilman Fertitta and the Rockets. Houston reportedly wants Kyrie Irving in a trade; Brooklyn is not playing along. The sides are not even on the same page, a source told NBC Sports.

• Philadelphia 76ers. A lot of fans seemed to think “Daryl Morey wants Harden” and would throw Ben Simmons in a trade to get the deal done yesterday. Not true. For one thing, the Rockets reportedly want Simmons plus three first-round picks, which more than the 76ers will pay. Plus, Philly revamped its roster and added shooting (Seth Curry, Danny Green) to go around Simmons and Joel Embiid to try and make that work. Ownership there is invested in seeing their home-grown duo succeed. According to multiple reports, the 76ers are not changing course and have not come close to putting Simmons in a trade offer.

• Miami Heat. The Rockets are not getting Jimmy Butler or the just-re-signed Bam Adebayo, but a deal built around Tyler Herro and other young players, some picks, and Kelly Olynyk (for salary) reportedly might be available. That doesn’t seem to move the needle in Houston. Miami will talk, but so long as they think they have a shot at a sign-and-trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo next offseason, the Heat may be hesitant.

• Milwaukee Bucks. There is no deal to be made here. Milwaukee is a surprisingly old team that does not have the young players Houston wants back, plus the Bucks are hard-capped, making any trade difficult to pull off.

Harden and the Rockets need the trade landscape to change.

Maybe Antetokounmpo signs his supermax extension and Miami starts to look at its other options (Bradley Beal would be on that list, too, should Washington make him available). Maybe things don’t mesh well between Simmons and Embiid in Philadelphia, or Durant and Irving in Brooklyn, and that team decides it needs to make a radical change. Maybe a team nobody is considering pops up and decides to bid on Harden (Houston is under no obligation to trade Harden where he wants to go, if another team wants to take on that risk and has the best offer, the Rockets should jump at it).

What the Harden trade request has in common with the Davis trade may be timing: A lot of noise at the trade deadline but the deal gets done the following offseason. Meaning Harden is stuck in a loveless marriage for this season.

Right now, the only team that wants Harden is Houston — John Wall is trying to win him over. Wall looked sharp in a couple of preseason games (it’s preseason, take with plenty of salt) and said multiple times his goal is to win Harden over.

“I feel like the way I play, at times when James is tired… I could be a guy to take pressure off of him,” Wall said after the Rockets’ second preseason game Sunday. “And that opens the lane even more for me when I get to run pick-and-rolls because, with a guy like that, that can score on all levels, they might not want to help on the weakside. Now, I got a guy, maybe Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, Danuel House or DeMarcus Cousins, or Christian Wood that gets open shots.

“The first two games of the preseason, we’ve been getting a lot of open shots. That’s with us moving the ball or me getting downhill. Just imagine, add another guy, James Harden, we all know what he’s capable of.”

Wall can make his pitch starting today at practice, and likely for the foreseeable future as there is no trade demand for Harden right now.

It also very likely will not be enough — Harden wants out and will get traded. Where and when are the questions that will follow the Rockets like a dark cloud all season.

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

0 Comments

Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

0 Comments

The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
0 Comments

We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.