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The Harden saga continues

James-Harden

The moment we heard Russell Westbrook wanted out of Houston, one thing was clear. If Russ leaves, Harden is going to be right behind him. This is now becoming the NBA's biggest soap opera.

Harden really wants out of Houston - $103 million in two years level of conviction. That's the extension the Rockets offered Harden on top of the remaining three years, $133 million on his current deal. That extension would make Harden the first $50 million player in NBA history.

When someone easily passes up on that offer, you know they are breaking up with you. What made Tilman Fertitta known for talking about going into the luxury tax but saving any penny he can approve such an offer?

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As we covered yesterday, Harden's desired destination is Brooklyn, but he is also OK with going to Philly. Daryl Morey told Fertitta and the Rockets he wants to spend more time with family, and two weeks later, he was signing a five-year contract with the Sixers. That didn't sit well with Tilman "Shut up and listen" Fertitta. I mean, they offered to pay Harden $50 million at age 35.

For now, the Rockets are slow-playing this. They have Harden under contract for two more years (with a player option in 22/23) and want to maximize the return they get on him if there's no way for Harden to change his mind - something the Rockets also haven't given up on. Trading Robert Covington for Trevor Ariza is the first move in that campaign. In addition to the two draft picks they got, Ariza was a part of their most successful season in Harden's tenure and the rockets are obviously hoping he can help with convincing Harden to stay.

If they do trade him, they will want a huge return. After seeing what OKC got for Paul George and the Pelicans for AD, they expect a lot of talent AND draft assets. In that light, Ben Simmons + whatever Morey cooks up would probably be much better than Dinwiddie, LeVert, and picks. But given Fertitta, who doesn't like to pay, offered so much money to Harden, it seems like he really doesn't want to trade him to Philly. It's hard to project when you know the main decision-maker doesn't seem to be rational.

Houston, you have problems.

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