James Harden Trade

A new big three. Maybe.

Jim Rome
January 14, 2021 - 9:29 am
James Harden and Kevin Durant

USA Today


Anyone down for an NBA trade? Actually, what went down yesterday wasn’t A trade, that was all the trades. Every single trade happened yesterday. And two months before the actual trade deadline. That’s how jacked up things had become between James Harden and the Rockets. So this monster involved four teams and a billion players. And picks and swaps, protected and unprotected

So let’s try to sort through it all. 

James Harden went to Brooklyn, which was not a surprise. They absolutely had to make the move. Harden had pretty much given up on them altogether and that Harden toxicity was spreading quickly throughout the locker room and the organization. And he was doing everything he possible could to get them to move him. So they did. 

The only question was: who would get him? The Sixers looked like they had a pretty good look at it. Except, it’s clear they either didn’t have enough or weren’t willing to meet Houston’s asking price. Ben Simmons and pieces weren’t going to get this deal done.

And no the Rockets didn’t get that one stud, stand-out player that they said needed in order to move Harden. Instead, the Rockets went the rebuild route and they got four first round picks and four pick swaps, plus three players. Things got so wacky yesterday that Victor Oladipo is now a Rocket. And Caris LeVert is a Pacer. And Jarrett Allen is now one of a million big men in Cleveland. 

Think about that, I know he’s still working his way back from injury, but still… - a two-time All-Star like Oladipo gets traded and it’s an absolute afterthought. A throw-in detail later on.

Because really, what this all comes down to is James Harden going to Brooklyn. James Harden joining up with Kevin Durant and the roster spot currently known as Kyrie Irving.

And the questions are pretty simple: did Houston get enough in return for one of the greatest scorers in NBA history? And are the Nets going to win a championship? Because from the Brooklyn perspective, that’s what this deal has to be about. You don’t give up what they gave up just to get to the NBA finals.  If that’s the best you can do, then you just made a bad trade.  You give up that many assets to get the guy, the guy better deliver a championship.  It’s ring or bust for the nets. 

As for Houston for moment. Anytime you’re trading one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, you’re losing. You’re not going to get value back for that. It’s just not possible. Especially when one of the greatest scorers ever, is one of the most miserable guys ever because of the spot he found himself in. So, Harden forced their hand. So no, you’re not going to equal value for a future a hall famer, still in his prime; and the fact that he hated it there and everyone knew it, didn’t exactly strengthen their bargaining position.

So, no, they didn’t get that alpha in return for Harden, but they did get a bleep load of picks. And they’re banking on the fact that the Nets picks will be valuable because this Nets experiment is going to be a disaster. And honestly, that’s not the worst bet in the world.

Because as good as the Nets appear to be on paper, they could be a disaster in reality. The dysfunction factor is high with this team. And the Nets can’t afford that. Again…This team has to win a ring or rings. Anything less than that would be a major disappointment. 

The Nets aren’t giving up three first round picks, four pick swaps, and multiple players to just advance in the playoffs. They aren’t doing that just to be competitive in the East. You make a move like this, you assemble a roster with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, and you do it to win a title, if not titles.

And that is where the biggest question mark about this deal comes – can this Nets team do that? Sure, it’s one hell of a Big Three, and you can Photoshop that crew together all you want and it looks scary, but that’s all that Big Three is right now – a ‘shop job.

Because right now, it’s a Big Two and a guy who’s missing at least six games to party and participate in political campaigns.

Honestly, there is no guarantee that Big Three ever actually assembles.

And then if it does, there is no guarantee that it works. I mean, do you really think that Kyrie Irving, who pushed back hard at the idea of being number two to LeBron James is going to just be happy being the number three to Kevin Durant and James Harden?  Yeah…because Kyrie is such a team guy. As evidenced by his abandoning his team and going AWOL, as we speak. 

And even if he does come back do you really think Kyrie signed with the Brooklyn Nets to get the scraps from two other guys? I sure as hell don’t.

And do you know that he’s actually coming back? And if so, when?

Will this Big Three work? Who knows? We didn’t even get to see the previous Big Two, the one of KD and Kyrie, work too much before Kyrie went on hiatus for “personal reasons.”

I can tell you this right now, before they even step on the court together, this isn’t the best Big Three of all-time, but it definitely is the weirdest Big Three of all time. Those are some unusual personalities all right.

You’ve got the conspiracy kook who’s vanished for personal reasons, only to pop up on Zoom calls with D.A. candidates. You’ve got the superstar with maybe the thinnest skin in the game, the guy who used to sweat the love and attention that Mo Buckets used to get with Golden State.

And you’ve got James Harden who just bad attitude his way out of Houston.

You know it’s an interesting Big Three when James Harden is the normal one. You know it’s quite a crew when the guy who allegedly was giving a friend a bag full of honey buns and 100 grand, is the normal guy. You know things are wacky when the guy who jets off to Vegas on days off to party and then comes back to score 40 points is the grounded one.

So will it work on the court? The old cliché is there’s only one ball and that cliché exists for a reason. Because those are three ball-dominant guys and they are used to getting theirs.  And we’re supposed to just accept that they’ll to be happy to get less? Will they go along to get along? That hasn’t always been the Kyrie Way, to say the least.  Get outa here with that.  When was the last time any of those three made personal sacrifices for the greater good. Ever?

But if it does work, and I’m not saying it can’t, I’m saying I’m skeptical as hell.  But if for someone Kyrie comes back doesn’t kook out, and they can all get on the same page, share the ball and actually run back on defense, at least occasionally, it’s pretty frightening. How many teams can defend that three-headed monster if it’s working? Kevin Durant has been unguardable for years and so far this season, he’s back to that level after the Achilles injury. James Harden is a walking bucket. And then there’s Kyrie, who for all his weirdness, can dominate a game as well.

I’d still be concerned about them in a seven game series because of what might or might not happen on the defensive end, and injury risk, and of course because of chemistry, but if they get it working on offense, it might not matter. They might be able to turn every game into a shootout and they’ve got three great scorers.

I’m never going to crack a team for taking a big swing. I’ll never take a run at a team that is doing anything and everything to make a run at a title. Because Not nearly enough teams do that. Here’s your dirty little secret.  Not ever team and owners wants to win a world championship. Actually chasing the ring is just too rich for some of these rich guy’s blood.  So you have teams that exist. They just take up space. The Nets are trying to do something. It’s a big freaking swing and I respect the hell out of it.  But if you were giving them a grade, it’s an incomplete at this point. But we know it’s’ going to be an A or F, and that’s any of us can really ask for. Don’t waste my time by giving me a C.

If that chemistry clicks, look out. If it doesn’t, look out. Steve Nash has either walked into the best opportunity ever as a first-time head coach or the worst. Only time will tell. The Nets got the Beard, so let's get weird. by the way, not that I hope for anything bad for Kyrie but I do hope the reason he’s out is because he’s dealing with some really tough stuff; and not that he didn’t like the hiring of Steve Nash and isn’t getting along with Durant. That’s just speculation, but if it’s also the real reason he’s not there, then he’s not only the weirdest teammate ever, he’s one of the worst teammates ever. Normally, I would give a damn about the nets; now they’re my favorite in all of sports.   Because when it comes to team content, they’re right near the top of the most dominant teams of all time.