Former Rockets star James Harden reportedly not sold on long-term future in Brooklyn

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Former Rockets star James Harden reportedly not sold on long-term future in Brooklyn
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Between draft pick obligations and pick-swap rights from the blockbuster James Harden trade a year ago, the Houston Rockets effectively control any first-round assets from the Brooklyn Nets through 2027.

That’s why the latest wave of uncertainty regarding the Nets and Harden, who can become a free agent as soon as this offseason, is so intriguing. In his Substack newsletter, longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reports:

It must be noted that there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer…

Such a relocation wouldn’t directly involve Houston, in all likelihood. Harden is 33 years old, and the Rockets are rebuilding around young players like 19-year-old rookies Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun. Any incentive for Harden to leave would be for a better chance to win now.

Thus, if Harden leaves Brooklyn — presumably because the Nets fall short in their title quest for a second straight year — it likely would not be for a return to Houston in 2022. Stein references Philadelphia, which is run by former Rockets GM Daryl Morey and has superstar center Joel Embiid right in the middle of his NBA prime, as an interested Harden suitor.

Nonetheless, even if Harden isn’t leaving Brooklyn for Houston this year, his exit to anywhere else would still potentially boost the value of those future Nets’ draft assets to general manager Rafael Stone and the Rockets. Kevin Durant turns 34 later this year and is currently dealing with an MCL injury, while Kyrie Irving remains a part-time player due to an unwillingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine (and subsequently being unable to play in home games). Amid those issues, Brooklyn (27-16) enters Tuesday with seven losses in its last 11 games.

It can all be resolved, of course, if Harden and the Nets go on a championship run in the playoffs within a few months. But should that not happen, it’s a storyline worth revisiting in June and July.

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