The Houston Rockets had no choice.
In expressing his lack of confidence in the team after Tuesday’s resounding loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden forced the Rockets’ hand.
The only option was an exchange and soon.
Harden didn’t want to be there, and after Tuesday’s explosion he was no longer welcome in the locker room.
So Harden finds himself in Brooklyn – alongside former teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – in a four-team trade that sends Victor Oladipo to the Rockets, Caris LeVert to the Pacers and Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Rockets also received four unprotected first-round picks – three from Brooklyn and one from Cleveland via Milwaukee.
Mortgaging the future for the present is something the franchise has done before (remember Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn), and it’s obvious that the property and general manager Sean Marks want to win now. Brooklyn has their version of a Big 3 – if Irving, who is absent for personal reasons, joins the team and is engaged.
The Cavs are planning their future and the Pacers offload Oladipo, who is in the final year of his contract, for a solid player at LeVert.
What does it do for the Rockets, who are a season far from believing they could fight for a title but have started the season in disarray?
Jettisoning Harden is a step in the right direction. This gives first-time NBA head coach Stephen Silas the space to lead the team in their vision without distraction. It also relieves the pressure on first-year general manager Rafael Stone, who ultimately deflated the growing debacle.
Sabotage might be too strong a word, but at the very least, Harden’s actions kept Silas and the players working together.
A team will rarely receive equal value in exchange for a player like Harden. The Rockets were therefore working from a difficult position.
But, they did manage to get Oladipo, a former All-Star who averages 20 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Oladipo can try to help turn things around for the 3-6 Rockets who are not devoid of talent with DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker and Christian Wood.
But if that doesn’t work with Oladipo, there’s no big deal. He can become a free agent after this season. But if Oladipo agrees, the Rockets are able to offer him a lucrative deal.
The big deal, however, comes in the form of four future first-round picks. These assets are valuable and provide options for the Rockets. If they go into full rebuild mode, they know they can build up some young talent through the draft. However, if they decide to reload on the fly, they have draft picks that can generate established talent through trade.
Silas admitted that it had not been easy. But he’s also an old NBA man, the son of longtime coach Paul Silas. He knows what this league is. He knows these things happen. It’s a shame for him, but he did as well as he could, especially in his first season.
The Rockets have finally done what they had to do, and with Harden on the sidelines, Silas and the Rockets can now work in the same direction.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.