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The Athletic: Nets remain ‘at the top’ of James Harden’s list

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

in reports Wednesday morning, two writers for The Athletic report that the Nets remain James Harden’s preferred destination and that a trade “centered” on James Harden and Kyrie Irving is possible. Harden made it clear last night that he wants out of the Rockets.

Kelly Ilko, who covers the Rockets for The Athletic, wrote...

Harden and the Rockets have been a divorce waiting to happen for some time now, and that couldn’t be made clearer now. After Sunday night’s game, a 120-102 blowout loss to Los Angeles, Harden’s desires for a trade were reinforced, The Athletic understands. Privately, Harden knows the team as currently constructed can’t defeat the Lakers in a seven-game series, a reality that only further cements desires for a move elsewhere, sources said. With the Lakers being the reigning champions and the standard for a contender right now, Harden wants to maximize the window he still has, a source said. Brooklyn still remains atop his wish list, sources said, though other contenders still remain.

Specifically, here’s what Harden said of his frustration with the way the Rockets are constructed and playing.

“We’re just not good enough,” Harden added. “Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. And it was clear the last few games. From the beginning of the game, they’re just a veteran team obviously, championship team, and one of the best teams we have in this league.”

Would the Nets own unhappy superstar, Kyrie Irving, also be part of a big trade between Houston and Brooklyn? Another reporter for The Athletic, Joe Vardon, writes that in fact that a league executive told him the trade could be “centered” on Irving-for-Harden. Vardon, who knows Kyrie from his time covering the Cavaliers, notes...

Harden wants to be traded and the Nets are one of his preferred destinations, though he cannot pick where he goes if he’s moved. The wide belief is if there were a deal to be had between Brooklyn and Houston, the Nets would move their plethora of younger, rising starters and role players. But I talked to a league exec Tuesday who thought the trade, if it happened, would have to be centered around Harden and Kyrie.

Similarly, Nick Wright of Fox Sports reports that there is “legitimate movement” on the Nets-Rockets front. Wright tweeted ...

Brooklyn is prepared to offer *anyone* that Houston wants aside from Durant for Harden, as well as three firsts and swaps.

BK willing to make the same bet it once made on KG & Pierce, but on Harden.

Previous reporting, before Harden’s latest comments —and Irving’s now extended absence— had the Rockets uninterested in the Nets young talent, players like Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith, on ESPN’s First Take, reported that the Nets are the No. 2 choice of the former MVP and eight-time All-Star.

“He wants to to go to Philly, that would be his No. 1 preference,” Smith said, with Brooklyn as his No. 2 option. Smith also said the Rockets are “strongly considering” letting Harden “stay home” and sit out “until they’re able to move him.”

No word on whether the Nets would do the same thing with Irving who remains on “personal leave.”