But was Harden wanting out really the first – or at least second – shoe to drop?
Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
Of note, James Harden came to this conclusion before Daryl Morey’s departure. https://t.co/tcVxSvJf0j
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 15, 2021
There is so much room for gray area here.
D’Antoni spent all season appearing to be headed toward the exit following failed contract-extension negotiations. Likewise, Morey’s relationship with Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta looked strained long before Morey’s decision to leave, which predated his announcement.
Who knows when Harden suspected or even knew D’Antoni and Morey would be out?
Harden also made a trade ultimatum the previous offseason. Obviously, the Rockets resolved it without losing Harden. Maybe they could have done that again if Morey and D’Antoni remained in place. Whatever Rafael Stone and Stephen Silas tried failed spectacularly.
It’s worth trying to understand Harden’s Houston exit – what prompted it and when. But the Rockets’ primary problems were spending limitations, aging and asset depletion after years of contention. Morey and D’Antoni had little ability to change Houston’s trajectory before Harden, 31, left his prime.
Whatever his reasoning, Harden had the power to steer himself to a team with greater championship odds – and exercised it.