James Harden turns down $50 million a year, prefers trade to Nets

James Harden declined a hefty extension from the Houston Rockets, preferring a trade instead.

Like James Harden’s facial hair coming out of ASU, that escalated quickly.

Just last Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported that both Harden and Russell Westbrook were concerned about the direction the Houston Rockets were heading in. Later that evening, news broke that Russell Westbrook wanted out.

It was only a matter of time before Harden joined him in trying to force his way out, but it’s falling into place far more quickly and more dramatically than most people were expecting.

According to the latest bit of intel from Wojnarowski, Harden placing the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers at the top of his trade wish list has rapidly spiraled into turning down a hefty extension from the Rockets in favor of pushing for a trade to the Nets.

The extension would’ve made him the richest player in NBA history, paying him more than $50 million a season. In total, it would’ve been a two-year, $103 million extension on top of the remaining three years and $133 million on his deal.

Money can’t buy James Harden’s love

Had Harden agreed to this offer, he’d have been on the Rockets’ books for five years and $236 million, essentially making him the NBA’s closest thing to Patrick Mahomes. It was an insane offer that would’ve paid him like the NBA’s best player through his age-36 season, but one that the Beard was apparently comfortable with turning down just to get out of the burning wreckage that was once the Houston Rockets.

The Nets have reportedly been in contact with new Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, but there’s been no meaningful dialogue. A package of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen and multiple draft picks seems to be the jumping-off point, but it’s hardly the best offer the Rockets would receive on the market for the services of a perennial MVP candidate.

It remains to be seen if, when and where Harden will be dealt, but even if he’s dead-set on joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, the Rockets should not feel pressured to move him unless they feel confident about the return they’d be getting.