Mannix: Harden divorce from Houston is inevitable

James Harden’s relationship with the Rockets is irreparable, Chris Mannix says, and the former MVP is doing everything he can to force Houston’s hand

The DA Show
December 18, 2020 - 9:57 am
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It’s possible – perhaps likely – that James Harden will begin the 2020-21 NBA season as a Houston Rocket. But it seems almost certain he won’t end it as one.

“A divorce is inevitable,” SI senior writer Chris Mannix said on The DA Show. “It’s just a question of timing and what the Rockets can get back in return.”

Harden has spent eight seasons in Houston and had a lot of success there, mostly in the regular season. After winning 65 games and reaching the conference finals in 2018, the Rockets have flamed out in the semis in each of the last two seasons. Harden and the Rockets are reportedly at a “breaking point.”

“When you talk to people in Houston, nobody is suggesting this is reparable, that a couple of weeks playing with John Wall and maybe a reinvigorated Boogie Cousins is going to turn James Harden back into a Rocket for life,” Mannix said. “But the Rockets, they don’t want to be bullied into this. They know the value of their player despite a lot of what you read now about he’s only a scorer; there’s a lot of disinformation going on in the public sphere about James Harden. His value is still incredibly high, and they want to make sure they get dollar-for-dollar value back in return. The reality is you’re not going to get that if you pull the trigger on a deal before the start of the season. I don’t think James Harden makes it past the trade deadline. But I do think that it’s going to be a process that’s drawn out at least a few more weeks.”

But why is Harden so unhappy in Houston? It seems the Rockets have done everything they can over the years to make him happy.

“It’s really not difficult to figure out,” Mannix said. “Yes, it’s true that the Rockets have catered to James Harden’s every need. They have given him a powerful voice in personnel decisions, whether it was acquiring Chris Paul, trading Chris Paul, acquiring Russell Westbrook, deciding that the Westbrook relationship wasn’t working – James Harden has had a voice in all of this. But James Harden is looking around Houston going, ‘We don’t have draft capital, we don’t have championship-level talent on the roster – we can’t win. I’m 31 years old, and I want to go to a place where I can win a championship.’

“Now, this is somewhat akin to lighting your house on fire and saying, ‘I don’t want to live there anymore,’” Mannix continued. “But this is the age of player empowerment, and despite having two guaranteed years left on his deal, James Harden knows if he puts up a stink, he’s going to force the Rockets’ hand – and that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s just looking objectively – like we all are – at that Rockets roster and saying, ‘It’s not a championship roster.’ And with only a few more years left in his prime, he wants to go to a place that has one.”

Mannix believes Philadelphia – because it could offer Ben Simmons – is the most likely destination for Harden, though Brooklyn and Miami could be in the mix as well.

Click below to listen to his interview in its entirety.