James Harden turns down Rockets’ extension
Says no to $103 million offer in hopes of joining Nets
James Harden must really want to come to Brooklyn.
But then again, who wouldn’t?
The former NBA Most Valuable Player turned down the opportunity to be the highest paid player in league history just so he can be a Net.
Harden, who appears very eager to get out of Houston, where he has starred for the past eight years, said no Tuesday to a reported $103 million, two-year extension from the Rockets that would have made him the first player ever to receive upwards of $50 million per season.
What started out as a rumor over the weekend has morphed into a genuine possibility for Brooklyn, which already boasts the superstar tandem of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Adding Harden, an eight-time All-Star and one of the most prolific scorers in the sport, would make Brooklyn a heavy favorite to win its first Eastern Conference title since 2003.
Anything less would be a major disappointment.
“We’re playing for a championship,” Nets head coach Steve Nash stated boldly during last month’s virtual Town Hall on the Yes Network.
“We are playing for a championship and we’re going to build accordingly. We’re going to frame everything we do in the lens of, ‘Is this a championship characteristic or is this worth championship quality?’”
And that was before Brooklynites even had a notion about adding Harden to the roster.
The Nets, who have already made it plain through ownership that they are willing to far exceed the NBA’s scheduled salary cap of $109 million and the $132 million luxury-tax threshold, appear to be on the brink of opening the season with a three-headed monster.
Harden has never won a championship and only reached one NBA Finals alongside Durant as a member of the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder, making him hungrier for a ring than another mega contract, which would have been added on to the three years and $133 million left on his deal in Houston.
Instead, “The Beard” is hoping he can join forces with Durant and Irving here and deliver our borough’s first major pro sports championship since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the hated Yankees in the World Series.
Though the Nets would likely have to part with Spencer Dinwiddie and/or Caris LeVert as well as a bevy of draft picks, the temptation to put three of the biggest names in the NBA on the Barclays Center marquee appears to be irresistible at this point.
Brooklyn, which has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, is scheduled to tip off the most-anticipated campaign in franchise history on Dec. 22.
If Durant, Irving and Harden are in the starting lineup together for that contest, the Nets will be one of the most intriguing and most-watched teams in the league, be it via television from an NBA bubble site or right here on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush.
Nets owner Joseph Tsai won’t stand in the way of general manager Sean Marks making a deal for Harden.
But Marks, who has built this team from the bottom up over the past four years, may have reservations about employing a three-star system with only one basketball on the court.
It will be up to Durant and Irving to welcome Harden to Brooklyn if the deal goes down, but Harden may have to sacrifice part of his game to fit in with the Nets’ tandem.
Then again, when you are willing to sacrifice upwards of $50 million per season, what’s a few points, rebounds, assists and minutes per game?
Adding Harden is both an exciting and potentially dangerous move for the Nets.
While it may make Brooklyn the most attractive stage in the NBA, with all due respect to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the world champion Los Angeles Lakers, it will also put even more heat on Durant, Irving, Nash and Harden to produce a championship immediately.
And championships aren’t won by simply building gaudy rosters.
Instead, the Nets will have to grind through a 72-game regular season and flourish through four playoff rounds to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy next year.
Dealing for Harden will be well worth it if the Nets do eventually capture their first crown.
But the downside of giving up well-developed talent and future picks for one shot at the title should be a genuine concern for Marks, who is on the verge of going all in for 2020-21.
At least Brooklyn’s top organizational executive knows that Harden won’t be coming here for the money.
Nothing But Net: With the 2020 NBA Draft scheduled to be held virtually on Wednesday night, the Nets are in line to pick 19th and 55th overall. Penn State’s Lamar Stevens, Washington’s Isaiah Stewart, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Kira Lewis of Alabama have all been mentioned as potential choices for Marks’ first-round pick.
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