It was no coincidence that James Harden’s public proclamation that the Houston Rockets “aren’t good enough” to put it together this season came after a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, it was in large part a reminder to Harden that the Lakers are playing a different game than the Rockets, with Iko writing that “Harden knows the team as currently constructed can’t defeat the Lakers in a seven-game series.”
The loss, Iko reports, reinforced Harden’s urgency to “maximize the window he still has” to win the first championship of his career. To that end, the story states that the Brooklyn Nets remain at the top of Harden’s list of landing places, though Iko reports other contending teams would still be acceptable to Harden.
“We’re just not good enough,” Harden told reporters postgame on Tuesday. “Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. And it was clear the last few games. From the beginning of the game, they’re just a veteran team obviously, championship team, and one of the best teams we have in this league.”
Since Harden privately asked out, reporting has confirmed that Houston’s asking price is quite high, including likely a blue-chip young player in addition to multiple first-round picks. It’s hard to say that Harden’s play and his actions have raised his value — he’s averaging 24.8 points per game, the lowest he’s averaged since joining the Rockets — but now, Harden is doubling down in order to secure a trade and put himself in better position to beat the defending champions.