Houston, we still have a problem. Whatever hope the Rockets had of convincing James Harden to change his mind about his trade request and play things out with their new roster may be fading fast. The superstar guard is determined to make a fresh start somewhere else, and is still pushing to be traded, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.
After making his Rockets preseason debut this past weekend, Wall expressed hope that Harden might become excited about playing with him in a backcourt -- a prospect that Harden is rejecting as he prepares to rejoin the team Monday in practice, sources said.
This isn't personal with Wall, and as one source told ESPN, there's "no change" in Harden's desire for a fresh start elsewhere.
The Rockets began their preseason schedule last week without Harden, who was a late arrival to training camp. While he did eventually return to Houston, his activities in the days prior -- apparently partying all over the country in crowded indoor spaces -- meant the league required him to test negative for COVID-19 six days in a row before he could practice with the team. Monday was his sixth day of testing.
Harden has been reportedly pushing for a trade for a month now, but the Rockets have been reluctant for multiple reasons. Most notably, he's still under contract for two more years, and his preferred destination, the Brooklyn Nets, cannot put together the pieces necessary to trade for a player of Harden's caliber -- at least not without including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, something that isn't happening. The Philadelphia 76ers are another team Harden is reportedly interested in, but similarly they aren't interested in giving up Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.
So far, the Rockets have held talks with both clubs, but it's likely they would need to rope a third team into any potential deal, per Wojnarowski.
For now, the Sixers are unwilling to include All-Stars Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons in trades, and the Rockets are uninterested in a package primarily composed of the Nets' complementary players and draft picks, sources said. The Nets aren't interested in trading Kyrie Irving, nor have the Rockets expressed an interest in acquiring him, sources said. For starters, the Nets and Rockets would need to find a more palatable young player on a third team as part of a broader deal, sources said, and there's no indication that prospect has gained any traction in recent weeks.
Last month, a report indicated that the Rockets were "willing to get uncomfortable" with Harden and Russell Westbrook, and would keep them well into the season if no worthwhile deal materialized. While one obviously did for Westbrook, it appears they might actually follow through on that strategy with Harden.
Of course, things can change fast, and if the Sixers decide they want to give up Simmons or Embiid, or a third team suddenly jumps into the mix in the Nets discussions, then maybe Harden will be moved before the season, after all. But with opening night just about a week away, the Rockets don't look to be in any rush to trade their MVP candidate, even if he already has his bags packed and ready to go.