Rockets GM Explains James Harden Trade; Star's Comments Didn't Impact Timing

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2021

Nathaniel S. Butler

Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said James Harden's public disparaging of the team's roster did not impact the timing of his trade to Brooklyn.

"I can guarantee you it did not affect us at all," Stone told reporters.

The Rockets traded Harden as part of a four-team blockbuster that returned four first-round picks, four pick swaps, Victor Oladipo and Dante Exum, a move that will likely define Stone's tenure running Houston's basketball operations. The move came less than 24 hours after Harden said the Rockets roster was not worthy of championship contention and that he did not believe the situation was salvageable. 

Stone said the draft-pick flexibility offered by Brooklyn played a large factor in choosing that deal over others offered. 

“I'll say what’s super exciting about this deal is it gives us flexibility. In the NBA, picks, especially high picks, are the best currency. ... It gave us the flexibility to do different types of deals as they come up this year, next year, whenever," Stone said.

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The addition of Oladipo, just two years removed from an All-Star berth, also played a factor. Oladipo is a more seamless fit with John Wall than Ben Simmons, the centerpiece of the Philadelphia 76ers' offer to Houston.

While Harden's comments may not have been the reason Stone finally granted the 2018 NBA MVP's trade request, it's hard to ignore the timing as a coincidence. It was clear Rockets players had grown tired of Harden's antics. The team had kept him away from Wednesday's practice before executing the trade, and it didn't seem likely he would return before a deal was made.

Every day that passed where Harden sat out would have reduced Stone's leverage. It benefited both Harden and the team to expedite the process, so the young general manager struck on the deal he hopes will help land a new franchise star.