It was the best of times, it was the last six months. After eight full seasons and a tumultuous part of a ninth in Houston, Rockets star guard James Harden was traded Wednesday to the Brooklyn Nets.
In return the Rockets receive a haul from Brooklyn. According to ESPN, Brooklyn is sending Houston three first-round picks (2022, 2024, 2026), plus opportunities to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027, and always-on-the-bench player Rodions Kurucs. The Rockets will also get Cleveland's 2022 first-round pick (which is coming from Milwaukee) and bench guy Dante Exum, and according to The Athletic, Indiana Pacers forward Victor Oladipo (as Brooklyn is trading them a player).
(Also, Oladipo is good!)
But the headline here is the end of the Harden era, and it was a train wreck of a finish. After the Rockets put all the chips on the table in 2019 to acquire Russell Westbrook, and proceed to strike out once again in the postseason, there wasn't much left for the team to do to put a championship team around the Beard. So, things fell apart. Westbrook was dealt to Washington for oft-injured guard John Wall, while longtime general manager Daryl Morey resigned (and a few weeks later joined the Philadelphia 76ers, who were rumored to be interested in Harden).
Once Morey left, the Harden trade rumors intensified. Harden was late to arrive to training camp, and the bad vibes only strengthened after Black Sports Online shared a photo of the Beard mask-less at an indoor party. Harden was fined $50,000 and suspended by the NBA for violating Covid-19 protocol; ultimately, without enough active players ready to play, the Rockets had to postpone their first game of the 2020-21 season.
Once the season began and Harden started playing, we were quickly reminded of his offensive ability. Plus, we found out that he was opening a restaurant in town. But again, any positivity washed away as murmurs picked up once more. It all came to a head Tuesday night when Harden said—without saying it but while definitely saying it—that he was finished in Houston.
Well, now he is, off to New York to play with all-world talent Kevin Durant and nearly-as-decent guard Kyrie Irving. But hey, Houstonians will always have his terrific offensive performances and the stunning three-point plays, and they'll always have all those times the Harden-led Rockets ... didn't make the NBA finals.