Apparently, when it comes to shipping off to Boston, Rockets star James Harden feels the same way about the Celtics as they feel about him—thanks, but no thanks. That’s the sense after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Harden has expanded his list of teams to which he would like to be traded to include Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Miami and Milwaukee.
All are top Eastern Conference contenders. But the Celtics are conspicuously absent from the list.
It’s unlikely that folks in the Boston organization are particularly upset, though. Former Herald beat writer Steve Bulpett reported last month that the Celtics poked into the possibility of trading for Harden but decided they were not interested.
After looking into Harden, Bullpett wrote, the Celtics, “were strongly advised to keep away. The word on how things slipped apart in Houston didn’t paint a lot of people in a very good light.”
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) December 12, 2020
Presumably, one of those people who were not in a good light was Harden himself, who has had a hard time remaining on the good side of star teammates all over the league. Harden had a frayed relationship with Dwight Howard when Howard left Houston in 2016, and had a similarly poor relationship with Chris Paul when Paul left two years ago.
Harden and fellow guard Russell Westbrook were not reported to have had personal problems last year, but they struggled to work as a unit on the floor in the playoffs. Westbrook was traded to Washington for point guard John Wall last week.
Celtics, Rockets Would Have Hard Time Agreeing on Harden Package
One issue with a potential Harden deal for the Celtics is what, exactly, Boston would send Houston’s way. Kemba Walker would be the obvious choice, but Walker’s bad left knee makes him very difficult to trade and has pretty much caused any potential market to dry up.
Kemba Walker talks on knee rehab, when he’ll know he’s ready https://t.co/c3kKgO6AAX
— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) December 12, 2020
Jayson Tatum would, obviously, be the guy that the Rockets would ask for, but he is all but untouchable for Boston, even for Harden, the reigning three-time scoring champ who averaged 34.3 points last season.
So that means any Celtics-Rockets deal for Harden would have to center around Jaylen Brown, though the Celtics would have to add more to make deal work. They could simply add Marcus Smart—that would be a decent haul for the Rockets—but if the Celtics wanted to keep smart out of the trade, they could offer Brown, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams and Grant Williams.
Brown is 24 and coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 20.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, making 38.2% of his 3s. Even for a talent like Harden, the Celtics might pass on sending away Brown.
Rockets Planning on Keeping Harden, For Now
It is likely a moot point, at least for the early part of the season. The plan in Houston appears to be to let things develop for the first few months, now that the Rockets have both Wall and his college teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, on board.
John Wall and Demarcus Cousins still have that Kentucky chemistry 🤝 pic.twitter.com/T88qVPGwrr
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 12, 2020
New coach Stephen Silas, in his first stint as a head coach, will certainly be challenged by the Harden situation, but he does have enough talent on hand to at least remain in the meat of the West playoff race.
If that happens, maybe Harden will come around to the notion of sticking with Houston. Either way, it is likely that the Rockets hang onto him until the trade deadline, or maybe even hold him through this entire season.
The Celtics are not on Harden’s list. But he’s not exactly on theirs, either.
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