James Harden appreciates ‘standup guys’ in Houston front office

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Ben DuBose
·3 min read
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In addition to the significant draft capital acquired by the Rockets as part of the blockbuster trade sending James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, there’s also a potential intangible benefit to the franchise in the years ahead. By working with Harden to trade him to his preferred destination, Houston may have showcased its credentials as a player-friendly organization to other superstars and players around the league.

During his introductory press conference in Brooklyn, Harden referred to the Rockets as an “unbelievable organization” and said he appreciated them working with him throughout the process. “Credit to the Houston Rockets, who are an unbelievable organization,” he said. “They worked with me, as bad it looked from the outside. I’m very appreciative.”

Approximately one month later, in a new interview published Friday by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, that sentiment remains unchanged. Here’s what Harden said regarding the drama of his final weeks in Houston, and whether he would make any changes in hindsight.

No. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. I wasn’t trying to be selfish. I feel like the front office knew where I stood, and what I wanted. I apologize how for it went down, but I guess I had to do what I had to do, in order to get to where I wanted to go.

Credit to Houston. They didn’t necessarily have to trade me to Brooklyn. They could have traded me anywhere, but those are some standup guys over there. It ended up the right way, I just didn’t like how that month or two played out.

After Harden’s initial trade demand in November went unfulfilled, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta worked to defuse the situation by reportedly assuring Harden of an eventual deal — which new GM Rafael Stone executed on Jan. 13. Fertitta then publicly thanked Harden for his years of success with the team. Harden also had a close relationship over his eight-plus years in Houston with veteran CEO Tad Brown.

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Despite the turbulent 2020 offseason, which included trade requests by Harden and co-star Russell Westbrook, Houston’s front office was able to secure a deal in free agency with rising star Christian Wood. Now, with the future draft capital acquired from the Harden trade, Stone’s front office should be well positioned to eventually strike on the trade market, if and when the next disgruntled star becomes available.

The question, of course, is whether the franchise will be viewed as desirable enough for those stars to use Harden’s template and position themselves for a move to the Rockets. The answer likely depends on a number of variables, including Wood’s development, but the strong reputation of Houston’s front office appears to be a good starting point.

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