Before the season even started, James Harden acted like someone who not only wants a divorce because they met someone but also wants to keep the house, car, and the company in the settlement. While the Rockets were processing the news their marriage is over, Harden was in Vegas and Atlanta, trying to speed up that process. It seems he is escalating it even more while back in Houston.
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Harden had more than one confrontation with teammates in practice, including Harden throwing a basketball at one of the youngest - Jae'Sean Tate. That could be a sign of accumulated frustration and his desire to leave the Rockets. Harden's reputation is that of a laid back person, and his frustrated demeanor around the team is an anomaly.
The Rockets expected a different scenario after the two preseason games. Houston's front office knew Harden wasn't happy, but sources described him as engaged and encouraging towards teammates on game nights. He even discussed tactics and was advising on how to improve. John Wall confirmed it.
“At the end of the day, we can't focus on what James does off the court. All we know is he comes in every day. He works hard. He's been one of the leaders of our team in this locker room. That's all we can ask for.”
John Wall, Twitter
Rockets were also active in the offseason, they've rebuilt the roster, but Harden wasn't impressed. So there is only one way to go from here.
Multiple sources signify that the Nuggets, Celtics, and Raptors are currently discussing possible trading packages with the Rockets' front office. Those franchises weren't at the top of Harden's favorable destinations - the 76ers, Nets, and Heat were his primary picks. When should we expect such trade? It seems sooner than later.
“More current rumblings indicate that tension within the Rockets is mounting each day Harden goes untraded. The Athletic illuminated some of that tension with a report Tuesday that Harden recently threw a ball in practice at Jae’Sean Tate, his new rookie teammate. Both sides now want to move on as quickly as possible. It’s time.”
Mark Stein, Mark Stein's Newsletter
The Rockets said they were willing "to get uncomfortable," and everyone read that meant he would be moved around the trade deadline (March 25). Stein predicts we shouldn't be surprised if a Harden trade happens in January. Harden reduced his own trade value with bad behavior and was forced to expand the list of teams he's ok with significantly. Now everyone is waiting for the final goodbye, to everyone's satisfaction.