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One of the major pieces of news to break in the NBA in recent days has been the disgruntlement of Houston Rockets mainstay James Harden. The 2018 Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the league has been with the Rockets since 2012, but he wants out as soon as possible.
After a recent blowout loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden all but asked for a trade away from Houston, insisting that he sees no path forward in which the team becomes contenders for the NBA championship.
“We’re not even close, honestly, to that team – obviously the defending champions – and all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said. “I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games. We’re just not good enough – chemistry, talent-wise, just everything. And it was clear these last two games.”
The 31-year-old added, “I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
This is the closest Harden has come to going public with the trade demand that he reportedly made in private to Houston during the offseason. According to ESPN, Harden made it clear to owner Tilman Fertitta before the season that he did not believe in the franchise’s direction and requested to be traded to a team that was in a better position to win.
Fertitta was disappointed but told Harden that he would explore the trade market. He has since continually given Harden assurances that he will trade him, and empowered new general manager Rafael Stone to trade the three-time scoring champion, who has three years and $133 million with a player option for the final season remaining on his contract.
In the meantime, the Rockets will have to cope with the awkward situation of having a star player who desperately wants out – something that could bring the team even lower, according to point guard John Wall.
“There’s a lot of guys here that want to compete at a high level,” said Wall. “When one through 15 guys are all on the same page and they commit and they know their role and they know what they want to get out of this and that’s to win, it’ll all be fine. But when you have certain guys in the mix that don’t want to buy in all as one, it’s going to be hard to do anything special or anything good as a basketball team.”
With Harden wanting out and results not coming their way, it appears Houston’s 2020-21 NBA season is over almost before it started.
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Catch the following games live on ESPN this week:
Saturday 23 January
02:30: Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics – LIVE on ESPN 2
05:00: Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets – LIVE on ESPN 2
Sunday 24 January
22:30: Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors – LIVE on ESPN