Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated reported details about the Rockets' stance Tuesday:
Farbod Esnaashari @Farbod_E
Sources: Houston felt the way Harden attempted to force a trade to Brooklyn was "improper". HOU maintains they have the leverage. Harden still wants to play in BKN. It may take a while It appears Harden wanted to a pull a Klutch / Anthony Davis move, but he doesn't have an agent
Harden has two guaranteed seasons left on his four-year, $171.1 million contract with Houston, which includes a player option for the 2022-23 campaign.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported in mid-November both Harden and teammate Russell Westbrook "expressed concern about the direction of the franchise" after the offseason exits of general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Harden was then "as vocal as possible" about his desire to join the Nets, per Esnaashari.
Brian Lewis of the New York Post noted the Rockets are in no hurry to move the 2017-18 NBA MVP, however, and are trying to drum up more widespread interest rather than acquiesce to his Brooklyn wishes:
Harden continued to play at an MVP level for Houston last season. He averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 4.4 threes across 68 appearances.
If he was traded to the Nets, or any other championship contender, it would be a move that could shift the NBA's balance of power.
The Rockets must maximize their return on both Harden and Westbrook, likely in a way that prioritizes future success since trading them both could close their short-term championship window, and the only way to do that would be to get more teams involved in the discussions.
Whether Harden's push to land in Brooklyn will render that impossible is the key question.