According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Houston is "demanding an especially steep return" in any trade involving the three-time scoring champion and wants "a proven, young star as a centerpiece along with a massive picks package."
What's more, the team also "does not feel obligated to deliver Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, his preferred destination" and is under "no pressure" to trade either him or Russell Westbrook before the season starts.
This echoes a Monday report from Marc Stein of the New York Times that said the Rockets "remain intent on keeping" Harden and would like to rebuild their relationship with him.
Despite those wishes, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Harden turned down a two-year, $103 million contract extension in large part because he is "singularly focused on a trade to the Brooklyn Nets."
While stars such as Harden and Westbrook apparently wanting out would lead to many teams feeling the pressure, MacMahon suggested Houston is "willing to get uncomfortable" and keep them around because they are each under contract for two more seasons with an additional player option for a third year.
The Rockets don't have to worry about either leaving in free agency anytime soon, so it should come as no surprise they want a lot in return for the Arizona State product.
After all, Wojnarowski reported the New Orleans Pelicans landed Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, three first-round picks and two pick swaps from the Milwaukee Bucks in a trade for Jrue Holiday.
While Holiday is a talented two-way player who could help the Bucks get over the hump, he is not Harden. Harden is one of the best players in the league, and he can take over a game at any time and lead even an average roster to the playoffs.
He may want to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, but Houston is only going to move him for the right price.