The purpose of the Houston Rockets trading Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall was twofold: The Rockets could ship out an unhappy player, but also bring in a new guy who star James Harden might be interested in playing with.
It doesn’t seem like that second part is going to happen.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday morning that Wall’s arrival from Washington has changed nothing for Harden. He’s “unmoved and uninterested” in forming a partnership with Wall and still wants the Rockets to trade him so he can get a “fresh start” with a new team.
Wall hopeful for partnership with Harden
Harden may be actively trying to leave, but Wall is still hopeful that the two of them will get a chance to play together, and that Harden will want to play with him.
“I think me and James can be a heck of a combination,” Wall told reporters after Sunday’s preseason game. “I just hope we get the opportunity to get into the regular season and see how it goes.”
Wall and Harden might get a chance to play together in the regular season, but not because Harden has had a change of heart. It may take awhile for the Rockets to find a trade partner willing to give up the package they want. At least Wall can take comfort in this: According to ESPN, Harden’s lack of interest in teaming up with Wall “isn’t personal.”
Harden has to act like he doesn’t want to be traded
Harden, who took a few extra days to arrive at camp so he could attend a birthday party, is expected to be cleared to participate in team practices on Monday. Despite his apparent disinterest in an on-court team-up with Wall and his desire to be traded, Harden reportedly told Rockets ownership that he plans to be “professional and engaged” once he joins the team. Though that behavior may just be a means to an end.
For the Rockets, this is necessary for the team to operate under new coach Stephen Silas while also allowing for some leverage in the trade market to get closer to full value for Harden. The appearance of a distressed asset only hinders an organization in making a trade of this magnitude, and Harden has expressed understanding of that concept, as well as the idea that it may take time to find a trade that returns appropriate value to the Rockets, sources said.
Harden will never get out of Houston if he acts like he wants out of Houston. No team will want to trade for a player like that, which will make it harder for Houston to find a trade partner — and it’s already pretty hard. Shelburne and Wojnarowski reported that Houston is still seeking a young franchise cornerstone plus first-round picks or high-end guys on rookie contracts in exchange for Harden.
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