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WOJ: JAMES HARDEN WANTS TO ‘FORCE HIS WAY’ TO NETS, TURNS DOWN $50 MILLION A YEAR EXTENSION

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Western Conference Semifinals - Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview Monday afternoon and a later tweet, Adrian Wojnarowski said James Harden remains set on joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, even turning down a two-year, $50 million a year extension.

However, Woj also suggested Houston may not be ready to deal him right now. Instead, he raised the possibility that the Rockets may wait in hopes they can “create a market” for Harden.

Here’s the tweet with news that Harden had turned down the massive extension, posted, at 8:46 p.m. ET...

The tweeted comment that the two teams hadn’t yet had any “meaningful dialogue” followed what appeared to be a hint in his afternoon interview that there had been some level of communication between the two teams. The Rockets, he told ESPN colleague Ashley Parker, have let it known what they want, a “massive haul” in return for Harden although he did mention any specifics.

“Because Harden is still under contract to Houston, there’s not a great deal of leverage to force your way out, but his focus is getting to the Brooklyn Nets,” Woj said, noting that he and KD have spoken. “He’s spent recent weeks out in L.A. working out with Kevin Durant, with Kyrie Irving. That’s his intention now.

“For Houston, if they’re going to trade James Harden, they have made it clear to Brooklyn and around the league that they want a massive haul back. That means young players, that means draft picks. that means salary cap relief.”

As a result, Woj said the Rockets have options.

“They can start the season with Harden on their roster and play this out and try to build a market for him, but right now, James Harden, in James Harden’s mind, he wants a way to Brooklyn.”

Meanwhile, Shams Charania said something similar about Houston’s position on the return ... adding that short of Durant or Irving, the Rockets say they aren’t that interested...

And in Houston, the Rockets beat writers provided details on the extension... and confirmed that Brooklyn was Harden’s only choice.

Jonathan Feigen, the Houston Chronicle’s veteran beat writer, confirmed Woj’s tweet on the extension and added details, including that Harden is only interested in the Nets...

James Harden on Monday went from interested to determined to make the career and franchise-changing move of leaving the Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets and took an unprecedented step to prove it.

Harden turned down the Rockets’ offer of a two-year, $103 million contract extension, two individuals with knowledge of the offer confirmed on Monday. ESPN was the first to report the offer that would have had Harden, 31, under contract, for five more seasons...

Harden made it clear that rather than likely finishing his career with the Rockets he wanted to be dealt to the Nets to play with Kevin Durant, his former Oklahoma City teammate, and Kyrie Irving. But he also indicated that he has no interest in going elsewhere and believes the Rockets should make the best deal with the Nets that they can, even if they do not consider it satisfactory.

Mark Berman, Sports Director at Houston’s Fox 26 (KRIV) in Houston, confirmed the basic facts —including that Harden only wants Brooklyn,..

The stream of updates came after a day of mostly silence on the issue.

Woj spoke to David Lynch of ESPN earlier in the day, his first update after he, Ramona Shelburne and Zach Lowe confirmed rumors that the seven-time All-NBA selection is interested in forming a super teams with Durant and Irving.

“How’s hard does James Harden want to push for this,” he told ESPN’s David Lloyd earlier Monday. “If Harden decides Brooklyn is the place he wants to be, and really starts to push the organization on it, I think that’s the momentum that it’s going to take to get him to New York.

“You know, Brooklyn has some assets in young players and potential picks and all those things that you’re going to want but a player of James Harden’s caliber, Houston is going to have to get a monster haul back to justify trading maybe one of the two or three best players in the NBA.”

Similarly, Similarly, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reported basically the same thing from the Rockets’ side of things.

Harden wants to move on from the Rockets, the Chronicle has been informed, and is trying to force his way via trade to Brooklyn, allowing The Beard to form the NBA’s next superteam and rejoin forces with former OKC teammate Kevin Durant.

Reports indicate that it would require some combination of the Nets young players —Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince — plus picks to get Houston on board. There’s been no indication that the Nets and Rockets have even talked about specifics.

Allen spoke with Brian Lewis Monday afternoon about the possibility of a trade and the Texas native said that while he’s focused on bringing a championship to Brooklyn, he understands the business.

“At the end of the day I’m still going to be playing basketball. Whenever I go into the gym, whatever happens, I’m there, I’m present, I’m ready to play for the Nets. I’m ready to learn from everybody there & go about my stuff and just say grounded as much as I can,” he said at his annual Meals + Math Thanksgiving event in Brooklyn.

Other Nets rumored to be possible pieces in a Nets offer for Harden posted cryptic social media messages...

But none were more cryptic than Harden’s own...

“No cap?” Meaning “no lie” or “for real,” often used to emphasize when someone is not exaggerating.

Besides all the rumors and messages, there are practical issues. like money and flexibility. Durant, Irving and Harden will earn more nearly $115 million this season with higher amounts in each of the three’s two “out years.” That $115 million figure is $6 million more than the salary cap.

That Harden wants Brooklyn remains the Nets leverage. And although Woj didn’t mention it, Houston has the most inexperienced GM, Rafael Stone, and head coach, Stephen Silas, in the league. Neither has held the the top job before and in fact, neither have been in their new job more than a month.

Would that be a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating at such a high level?

Stone had been the Rockets general counsel until 18 months ago when he was named executive vice president of basketball operations. He succeeded long-time GM Daryl Morey, who brought Harden to Houston eight years ago before leaving a month ago for the 76ers. Silas, a former Rockets assistant coach, replaced Mike D’Antoni, now with the Nets, a few days after Stone was hired. He had most recently been an assistant with the Mavericks.