In the wake of the Houston Rockets’ hard-fought 118-110 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, the Rockets let it be known that they will be using James Harden, arguably their biggest star, as a sort of covert agent this summer in order to woo Kevin Durant into joining the team. Durant is known for his team pride and will not be easy to “convert;” is Harden up to the task?
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 4, 2016
Kevin Durant is one of the NBA’s biggest names. He has been playing for eight years and is now better than ever, having won league MVP in 2014 and posted similarly stellar stats during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. It is no surprise, then, that Durant is a very highly desirable player to many teams, including the Houston Rockets.
Durant is not eager to leave Oklahoma City for James Harden’s Rockets or any other destination, though. He has been with the team for his entire career – including the 2007-2008 season, before the team had moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder – and he has a lot of team pride, notes Yahoo Sports.
“He adores the Oklahoma City community and holds a fondness for the franchise.”
And that is not the only reason the Houston Rockets will have trouble ripping Durant away from his NBA career hometown. Other, more dominant, teams with more financial clout such as the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors have expressed strong interest in picking up Durant.
The Rockets management sat down and considered how to get the edge over the other teams in the race to sign Kevin Durant, and the solution they came up with was a bit unconventional. That’s where James Harden came in.
James Harden has been one of the Houston Rockets’ premier players for the four seasons he has been on the team, but Harden also played in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant for three years before he ever donned the red and white jersey.
Reportedly, Harden and Durant’s time as teammates gave them some opportunity to bond, because ESPN points out that the two are now on great terms in both personal and professional capacities. They even report that Harden is friends with Durant’s family and enjoys joking with them when Harden is in Oklahoma City, where he owns a house.
So the Rockets want James Harden to use the positive cred he has with Kevin Durant in order to serve as a “secret recruiter” of sorts, according to reports.
Although one might think Harden would resent his team exploiting his personal relationships in order to gain strategic edge, James says he is completely on board with the idea.
“In order to put yourself as an elite team, you always got to have talent, right? You always got to get better and find ways to improve. That’s any team.”
Harden did not discuss the Durant recruitment specifically, no one wants to reveal their hand too early when it comes to under-the-table dealings, but it seems clear that he is ready to help improve the team in any way he can even beyond his considerable on-court contributions.
As one can see in the video below, Durant was devastated when his good friend left the Oklahoma City Thunder years ago, and the prospect of being able to team up once again with best bud James Harden may indeed be very enticing to Kevin, what with Harden and Durant being two of the league’s top players.
Most sources point out that James Harden will also have a few more great selling points with which to further entice Durant to come to the Rockets besides Harden’s own presence. Possibly the largest one is that Texas does not collect income tax, and that means a well-paid professional athlete like Kevin Durant would save millions of dollars that would normally go to the government each year. Also, Harden could remind Durant that Houston is much bigger and more prosperous than Oklahoma City and would likely provide more marketing opportunities.
Does Durant really need all the stuff Harden can offer him, though? CBS Sports points out that he has already established sponsorships with national brands like Nike. Also, and maybe more importantly, Oklahoma City is now Durant’s home, and the Thunder’s fans will always show him loyalty if he stays.
What do you think? Is it time for Kevin Durant to give in to longtime pal James Harden and start a new chapter in his NBA career, or should he stay put? Is James Harden being unethical by intentionally mixing business with friendship? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]