Rockets Rumors: HOU '100 Percent Committed' to Maximizing James Harden's Prime

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2020

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) signals to the offense during the second half of an NBA first-round playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets reportedly remain "100 percent committed" to building a championship contender around James Harden despite an offseason overhaul that brought in a new general manager, Rafael Stone, and head coach, Stephen Silas.

ESPN's Tim MacMahon explained Wednesday on The Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski (via Real GM) the team isn't planning to alter the main pieces of the roster despite the other changes.

"What I can say is right now the Rockets are 100 percent committed to trying to cash in on James Harden's prime," MacMahon said. "They consider him the best player in the league, which you know... He's without question a perennial MVP candidate. That's just a simple fact. They're going to try to win a championship as long as he's at that level and as long as he's on board."

The bigger question may be whether Harden thinks the Rockets in their current form are capable of winning a title, the only substantial missing piece on his career resume.

He's got two guaranteed seasons left on his four-year, $171.1 million contract, which features a player option that could allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

MacMahon suggested on The Woj Pod the Rockets may be done trying to bring in different superstars to play alongside Harden, the most recent being Russell Westbrook, and that could lead the 2017-18 NBA MVP to reconsider his options in the years ahead:

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"I think at this point it's probably a year-to-year deal. If I'm speculating, I'm going to say that decision is more than likely made by James Harden instead of made by the Rockets. In other words, it could get to a point...And I don't believe this is imminent. Again, I think it's a year-to-year situation where at some point James Harden, who has tried repeatedly to pair with a superstar to give him a chance to a championship: first Dwight [Howard], then Chris Paul and now with Russ. If James Harden wants to pair with another superstar, he's probably going to have to be the one to pack his bags. Is that next offseason? Is that the offseason after that? We'll see. Obviously a lot of that depends on what happens with the Rockets over these next one or two years."

The Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference with a 44-28 record during the 2019-20 campaign. They eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs before getting knocked out by the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Houston's core of Harden, Westbrook and Eric Gordon will remain in place. While several depth players are set to hit free agency, some key secondary contributors like P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Robert Covington are also set to return.

So the Rockets are unlikely to make a major splash during the offseason. Perhaps they can add some veteran role players seeking an opportunity to chase a championship on team-friendly contracts, but it doesn't sound like a third superstar will be on the way in.

Whether the roster is enough to survive an absolutely loaded Western Conference is up for debate, and the answer may decide Harden's future in Houston.