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Woj: Lack of ‘traction’ on Nets talks leads James Harden to widen list of teams

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NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets real interest in James Harden remains a mystery. Harden at least privately, at least reportedly, wants to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn but as multiple sources have reported: there haven’t been any talks between the Rockets and Nets in weeks.

Moreover, Sean Marks has, without getting into details, let the media know he’s skeptical about the possibility, citing his reluctance to blow up his team’s roster or mortgage his team’s future. Kevin Durant strongly denied recruiting Harden and even accused reporters of making up the story. (Ian Eagle thinks KD is telling the truth, by the way, suggesting the narrative originated with Harden.)

Need any more indications that the Harden-to-Nets rumors are either exaggerated or not imminent? Here ya go. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN...

James Harden indicated to the Houston Rockets before training camp that he would be open to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers or possibly other contenders, sources told ESPN...

After it was clear there was no traction in talks with the Nets, Harden expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable if a trade with the 76ers materialized, sources said. Harden also indicated that other teams could fit his criteria for a preferred destination, a source said.

Woj went on ESPN later to talk with Scott VanPelt about the situation...

James Harden’s list of final destinations has broadened. Maybe Philly, maybe Golden State, maybe Boston? A report out of NBC Sports in the Bay Area stated that even before Klay Thompson went down, they “cast a wide hypothetical net that included James Harden,” then reconsidered.

Beyond that, Woj and MacMahon report that the Rockets still want other teams to pay such a high price that it’s going to hard to find a buyer.

Houston hasn’t wavered in what the Rockets consider a fair asking price for Harden: a package that includes a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round picks and/or talented players on rookie contracts, sources said.

And on CNBC this afternoon, Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta told Tyler Mathieson that he’s hoping Harden will stick around.

“James Harden, I have all the respect in the world for. And James Harden wants to win a ring during his period as a basketball player. I think that’s wonderful that he’s going to do that and hopefully he’ll do it with the Houston Rockets.”

Meanwhile, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported details on Harden’s trade request, that it came before the Rockets recent moves to trade for John Wall and sign DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood.

Harden approached management/ownership and gave them his mandate: Either build a championship team around him or get him to a situation where he could achieve that.

Prior to Houston’s flurry of offseason moves, Harden had told Houston that he didn’t see a realistic path to a title and would prefer to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, sources say.

Iko also wrote that Harden issued an implied trade demand before the Rockets dealt Chris Paul to Oklahoma City in 2019.

After the 2019 playoff collapse and fallout with Chris Paul, sources say Harden told the front office the same thing: commit to building a championship team or trade me.

What’s next? Harden finally arrived in Houston after partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas and underwent COVID testing. As some point, we presume the Rockets will make him available to the media and he can speak himself. But all signs point to a long game.