Celtics, Rockets Had ‘Courtesy Call’ on James Harden Trade: NBA Insider

James Harden, Rockets

Getty James Harden, Rockets

It sure looks like we should be able to pull the Celtics out of consideration when it comes to the slew of teams involved with the Rockets for guard James Harden. Going back to November, it was reported that the Celtics poked around the possibility of a Harden trade but decided it was not worth the trouble, especially if it had to include Jaylen Brown.

Might that change, especially in the wake of an uninspiring 3-3 start?

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According to ESPN’s longtime insider Brian Windhorst, the Celtics have at least checked in with the Rockets about a deal. With a number of teams, including the Nets, Bucks, Raptors and Heat, also coming out of the gates slowly, Windhorst wrote that it is “not a coincidence” that attention could quickly turn to Harden as a way to vault from the middling ranks of very good teams into the small group of elite contenders in the East.

It has helped that Harden, through three games, is averaging 37.0 points and 11.0 assists.

Here’s what Windhorst wrote:

It is not a coincidence that a number of teams such as the Celtics, 76ers, Heat, Nets and Raptors — teams that are in the “good not great” zone — have at least made a courtesy call to the Rockets, sources said. Even the Bucks, sources said, at least had an internal conversation about it and ran it past Giannis Antetokounmpo before deciding not to get involved. They had to; with the current landscape, Harden’s eventual destination is on the mind of everyone in this tightly packed race.

Celtics Do Not Want to Give Up Jaylen Brown

Now, it remains difficult to imagine that the Celtics will throw their hats into the Harden ring. Harden has included them as one of the teams to which he would be willing to accept a trade, but it would be difficult to construct such a trade without Boston giving up burgeoning young star Brown.

Brown has been scintillating coming out of the gate, averaging a career-high 27.5 points on 56.9% shooting, with 5.2 rebounds and another career-high, 3.2, in assists.

A deal that started with Brown (who is making $23 million this year) and big man Daniel Theis, plus a handful of young players and draft picks, would be a way for the Celtics to make a Harden trade happen. But there is little evidence that the team wants to give up Brown, who has developed into half of a potent tandem with Jayson Tatum.

One player who might be part of a Harden package: Semi Ojeleye. But Ojeleye let his feelings on Harden in Boston be known last month. “Honestly,” he said, “I don’t know if he’d fit.”

Could a Celtics Kemba Walker Package Bring Back Harden?

The Celtics might be more willing to part with Brown if it meant the Rockets also took on Kemba Walker, who has been out as he struggles to get his left knee healthy. Concern about Walker’s knee has torpedoed his trade value, but he is still owed $108 million over the next three seasons by the Celtics. If losing Brown meant not only getting Harden but getting out of Walker’s deal, that might be worth considering for Boston.

A simple swap of Harden and guard oft-injured Eric Gordon for Walker and Brown would work under NBA salary rules. The Celtics would likely have to include picks — Walker remains a big risk because of the knee.

But, again, there is no indication that much has changed on the Harden-to Boston front. The Celtics certainly will monitor the market for Harden, but a deal is unlikely.

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