Disgruntled superstar James Harden said the Houston Rockets aren’t good enough after a second straight loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, adding that he doesn’t think the team can improve enough to be a contender.
I love this town. I literally did my best, Harden said after the 117-100 loss. I mean, this situation is insane. It’s something I don’t think can be fixed.
According to some sources, this was the earliest Harden was able to make his business application public in the offseason.
The Houston front office wants to remain patient until the asking price for the NBA’s 2018 MVP is reached, sources told ESPN. The Rockets told teams they wanted a young franchise cornerstone and a first-round package and/or interesting talent with rookie contracts in exchange for Harden, according to sources.
The Rockets have had active/current business discussions with more than a half-dozen teams, according to a source close to the situation, and have contacted Harden about those options.
Prior to the season, Harden made it clear to his owner, Tilman Fertitta, that he did not believe in the direction and ability of the franchise to compete, preferring a team that sources say is in a better position to win.
Fertitta was disappointed, but he told Harden he was going to explore the commercial rocket market. Since then, he has repeatedly assured Harden that he would trade him, allowing new manager Rafael Stone to swap the three-time top scorer, who still has three years and $133 million on his contract with a player option for last season, if he finds a deal he likes.
The Rockets have lost four of five games since Harden, who has been playing since the start of training camp, returned from a sprained right ankle that caused him to miss a game. He has scored 20 points or less in his last four games, the longest span since 2011-12, his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
This loss was even less competitive as the Rockets trailed 35-14 at the end of the first quarter. Houston fell to 3-6, just a half game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the Western Conference.
We’re not even close, honestly, to this team – obviously the defending champions – and another elite team, Harden said. I mean, can you tell the difference between the last two games.
We’re just not good enough – chemistry, talent, everything. And it was clear that these last two games.
Harden completed his virtual press conference after just two questions. Rockets coach John Wall, who traded his spot for Russell Westbrook just before the start of training camp, noted that self-interested players can drag the team down.
He speaks with his own mind. I can’t know what he thinks about the team or how he feels about us, Wall said. I know how much work these guys do… getting better every day. I know how hard I worked to come back and compete at a high level.
There are a lot of guys here who want to compete at a high level. As I said to everyone tonight and to the guys, if any of the 15 guys are on the same page and are committed, know their role and know what they want to get out of it, and it’s to win, then everything will be fine. But if some people don’t want to contribute as a unit, it will be hard to create something special or good like a basketball team.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN contributed to this report.
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