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Nets acquire James Harden in blockbuster trade

The 3-time scoring champ is headed to Brooklyn in a deal involving Houston and Cleveland.

From NBA.com News Services

James Harden averaged 29.6 points over his 621 regular season games with Houston.

James Harden is heading to Brooklyn, joining old teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to give the Nets a potent trio of the some of the NBA’s highest scorers.

The Nets acquired the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in a move he has sought for weeks. The trade also involves the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the trade, the Nets send center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince to Cleveland, and guard Caris LeVert and forward Rodions Kurucs, as well as three first round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) to Houston. The Rockets also receive guard Dante Exum and a 2022 first round draft pick from Cleveland (via Milwaukee), and Brooklyn acquires a 2024 second round draft pick from the Cavaliers to complete the deal.

The deal will reportedly include a fourth team, the Indiana Pacers, but that aspect of the deal has not been made official yet. Per multiple reports, the Pacers would acquire LeVert and a future second-round pick from the Rockets in exchange for All-Star guard Victor Oladipo.

In a statement released by the Rockets, team owner Tillman Fertitta said: “On behalf of the entire Rockets organization and the City of Houston, I’d like to thank James Harden for an amazing eight-plus seasons in a Rockets uniform. James has provided us with so many great memories as we’ve watched him grow from Sixth Man of the Year to a perennial All-Star and  MVP.

“My family and I also want to thank James for his many off the court contributions, including generous charitable donations and multiple annual community events. We wish James the best of luck and will always be grateful for the memories.”

The Nets are now able to trot out a lineup of three players capable of scoring 25 or more points on any night in a collection of firepower to rival any Big Three in recent years.

“It’s an amazing move for Brooklyn. Obviously, they got better — way better,” said two-time Kia MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee.

The Nets are loading up for a title run with three of the highest-paid players in the league. All are under contract through 2022-23, with Harden and Durant both set to earn more than $40 million in each of the next two seasons.

In the meantime, the Nets were short-handed for their game against the New York Knicks, where coach Steve Nash declined to discuss Harden but did confirm that the players the Nets were trading were not in the building. The Nets beat the Knicks 116-109 thanks in large part to Durant’s 26-point effort.

James Harden trade: The particulars

  • Nets receive: G James Harden from Rockets | 2024 second-round pick from Cavs
  • Nets trade: C Jarrett Allen & F Taurean Prince & rights to Aleksandar Vezenkov (57th overall pick in 2017) to Cavs | G Caris LeVert, F Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) & four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027) to Rockets
  • Rockets receive: G Caris LeVert, F Rodions Kurucs & three first-round picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027) from Nets | G Dante Exum & 2022 first-round pick (via Milwaukee) from Cavs
  • Rockets trade: G James Harden to Nets
  • Cavs receive: C Jarrett Allen, F Taurean Prince & rights to Aleksandar Vezenkov (57th overall pick in 2017) from Nets
  • Cavs trade: G Dante Exum & 2022 first-round pick (via Milwaukee) to Houston | 2024 second-round pick to Brooklyn

Off to a 7-6 start in his rookie season, now the former point guard and two-time league MVP Nash will have to mold an offense that keeps the ball moving with three players worthy of having it in their hands.

“It’s a simple game but it becomes complicated when you put different personalities and players on the floor,” Nash said. “Our group’s done a really good job being unselfish this year and trying to move the ball and work together so I’ve been proud of that.”

The blockbuster deal provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both franchises. It was struck less than 24 hours after Harden seemed to deliver a farewell address of sorts following the Rockets’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, and just before Irving was set to miss a fifth straight game during a personal absence from the Nets.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania breaks down the reported blockbuster trade.

Harden, who has cycled through Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook as teammates in recent seasons, didn’t think much of the roster the Rockets had around him this season.

“We’re just not good enough … I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can,” Harden said Tuesday night. “I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

It couldn’t, and now he’s gone.

Brooklyn expects Harden to leave all that behind him and that his transition to the Nets is smooth. He should be much happier in Brooklyn, having teamed with Durant in Oklahoma City when they were younger and remaining close still.

It was obvious the end was nearing Wednesday, when the Rockets told him they didn’t want him at practice after his inflammatory comments about the team.

“We felt it was best for James and best for the group for him not to come to practice,” first-year coach Stephen Silas said. About two hours later, ESPN and The Athletic first reported that Harden was being moved.

Will the Harden-Irving-Durant combo work in Brooklyn?

The disgruntled superstar, who was unable to get the Rockets past the Western Conference finals, had remained quiet through months of reports that he was unhappy in Houston. Silas called the drama surrounding Harden an “all-around messed up situation.”

The Nets were ready to swoop in, after a shaky defense during the early season proved their best chance to beat teams might be to outscore them.

They can certainly do that now. Durant is averaging 29.9 points in his first season back from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon, and Irving was scoring 27.1 per game before leaving the team last week. Harden, who appears to be out of shape after joining the Rockets after training camp began, is averaging 24.8 this season after three straight seasons above 30, culminating in MVP honors in 2018.

The Rockets are just 3-6 so far this season and only Minnesota has a worse record in the Western Conference. The team is clearly in disarray and new arrival John Wall called the situation “rocky.”
Harden won each of the last three scoring titles by notable margins — 2.3 points over Anthony Davis in 2017-18, 8.1 points over Paul George in 2018-19 and 3.8 points over Bradley Beal last season. His average so far this season ranked 18th in the NBA, well off his usual pace.

It could pick back up again in Brooklyn, where Nash’s assistant running the offense is Mike D’Antoni, Harden’s coach during his best seasons in Houston.

D’Antoni didn’t return after last season and it quickly became clear Harden wanted to be gone, too. He was a no-show when camp opened and was later fined $50,000 for conduct detrimental to the league after attending an indoor event without a mask in violation of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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