James Harden is heading to Brooklyn, joining old teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to give the Nets a potent trio of the some of the NBA’s highest scorers.
The Nets agreed to acquire the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in a move he has sought for weeks.
Harden is the centerpiece of a four-team deal that also involves Indiana and Cleveland, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade call with the NBA — which signs off on all deals — has not been completed.
Once the deal is completed, the Nets will be able to trot out a lineup of three players capable of scoring 25 or more points on any night in a collection of firepower to rival any Big Three in recent years.
They are loading up for a title run with three of the highest-paid players in the league. All are under contract through 2022-23, with Harden and Durant both set to earn more than $40 million in each of the next two seasons.
It provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both franchises, struck less than 24 hours after Harden seemed to deliver a farewell address of sorts following the Rockets’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, and just before Irving was set to miss a fifth straight game during a personal absence from the Nets.
At least four draft picks and additional pick swaps are also part of the deal. Other key players: Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris LeVert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana. Cleveland will get Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets.
Harden, who has cycled through Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook as teammates in recent seasons, didn’t think much of the roster the Rockets had around him this season.
“We’re just not good enough ... I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can,” Harden said Tuesday night. “I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
It couldn’t, and now he’s gone.
The Nets were ready to swoop in, after a shaky defense during the early season proved their best chance to beat teams might be to outscore them.
They can certainly do that now. Durant is averaging 29.9 points in his first season back from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon, and Irving was scoring 27.1 per game before leaving the team last week for personal reasons. Harden, who appears to be out of shape after joining the Rockets after training camp began, is averaging 24.8 this season after three straight seasons above 30.
The Rockets are just 3-6 so far this season and only Minnesota has a worse record in the Western Conference. The team is clearly in disarray and new arrival John Wall called the situation “rocky.”
Three more games
Contact tracing issues involving the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards forced the NBA to postpone three more games Wednesday, raising the leaguewide total from this week alone to eight.
The NBA also revealed that 16 players — by far the most in a one-week period since training camps started — returned positive COVID-19 tests between Jan. 6 and Tuesday. With 497 players tested, that reflects a positivity rate of 3.2%.
Phoenix’s home game Wednesday against Atlanta was called off, as was the Suns’ home game with Golden State on Friday. Also called: Friday’s game where the Wizards would have gone to Detroit. The reason in all three cases was the same, that the Suns and Wizards wouldn’t have enough players cleared to participate.
That Suns-Hawks game was the third on Wednesday’s schedule to be called, joining Utah at Washington and Orlando at Boston. It also marks the second consecutive time that a team ran into issues after playing in Washington; the Miami Heat lost eight players to COVID-related issues following their road game against the Wizards on Saturday.
Also not playing Wednesday: Zion Williamson, ruled out by the New Orleans Pelicans for their game at the Los Angeles Clippers because of the league’s health and safety protocols. That doesn’t mean he tested positive and simply could mean he was potentially exposed to someone who has, or had an inconclusive test.
It’s all part of a turbulent week that also saw the league and the National Basketball Players Association release updated rules strictly limiting players from venturing away from their homes or hotels for anything other than games, practices, workouts or emergencies. The new rules will be in place for at least two weeks, with hopes the virus issues around the league calm down in the interim.