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Rockets used Sixers, Celtics as leverage to get ideal James Harden trade return from Nets

Rockets, Sixers, Celtics, James Harden, Danny Ainge, Daryl Morey

The James Harden saga with the Houston Rockets proved that the NBA is still one of America’s best reality television series – and what reality show doesn’t have its fair share of manipulation?

According to The Athletic, the Rockets used the Sixers and Celtics as leverage to garner the perfect trade with the Nets.

Despite the Sixers having former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, someone who has a relationship with Harden, the Sixers were never able to gain any ground in their Harden talks. Even with Simmons included in the talks, Philly couldn’t compete with the Nets – who seemed to up the ante at every turn.

Sources told The Athletic that Philadelphia felt that their ultimate purpose in the negotiations was to provide the Rockets with the leverage needed to maximize the return with the Nets – despite their strong interest in landing Harden. 

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Rockets demanded Simmons, Tyrese Maxey and three first-round picks.

Towards the end of the saga, the Celtics entered the chat. There were reportedly multiple configurations of a deal still possible between the Celtics and Rockets but, just like the Sixers, the Celtics were unable to ever gain any ground. 

“Brooklyn went Full Monty,” one rival executive whose team showed interest in Harden said. “Desperation was in the cards, and there’s nothing better in this league than to have desperation. …(The Rockets) are banking on it blowing up.”

And that’s what happened. Brooklyn broke their bank to land Harden. But that’s not the only thing that blew up. The Rockets’ locker room was nearly in shambles prior to the trade – John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins calling Harden out after what became their last game together.

And therein lies the dirty truth of the reality show that the NBA is: When big deals transpire there are always casualties made – whether it be financial, opposing teams, or even the main squad in the locker room. 

In the end, Brooklyn’s urgency and the Harden desire to move on from the Rockets landed the four-team blockbuster trade that nearly broke Twitter.