James Harden indicated to the Houston Rockets before training camp that he would be open to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers or possibly other contenders, sources told ESPN.
Harden, the perennial MVP candidate who is holding out of training camp, previously requested to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets to form a superteam with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
After it was clear there was no traction in talks with the Nets, Harden expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable if a trade with the 76ers materialized, sources said. Harden also indicated that other teams could fit his criteria for a preferred destination, a source said.
The Rockets and the Sixers have had no substantive talks about a potential Harden deal, sources said. New Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager for the previous 13 seasons, has said he has no intention to break up the Sixers’ All-Star duo of center Joel Embiid and guard/forward Ben Simmons.
Simmons, 24, a third-team All-NBA selection, is entering the first season of a five-year, $169.5 million contract extension. Embiid, 26, a two-time second-team All-NBA selection, has $94.7 million over three seasons remaining on his deal.
Teams would be reluctant to give up the assets required to get a player of Harden’s caliber without confidence that he would be willing to remain with that franchise when he can opt out of his contract following the 2021-22 season. Few contending teams have the ability to furnish Houston with the combination of assets that it’s seeking to consider dealing Harden.
Houston hasn’t wavered in what the Rockets consider a fair asking price for Harden: a package that includes a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round picks and/or talented players on rookie contracts, sources said.
The Rockets have been adamant that they will not be rushed into trading Harden, regardless of how uncomfortable the situation has become with the three-time scoring champion failing to report to training camp while partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas.