The Boston Celtics have apparently pulled out of the James Harden sweepstakes and it could because of how things crumbled in Houston behind the scenes.
Last week, it was revealed that Russell Westbrook had asked for a trade out of Houston because he didn’t want to play with Harden anymore.
"I'm telling you what I have heard: they don't want to play with each other any more. Russell Westbrook doesn't want to play with James Harden. James Harden doesn't want to play with Russell Westbrook."
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 12, 2020
According to The Athletic, Westbrook was frustrated with the team’s lack of accountability especially from his superstar teammate.
Westbrook, sources say, has made it known for quite some time now that he would like to see significant changes to the Rockets’ culture. Specifically, his desire for more team-wide accountability, discipline and structure have been the focus of talks with team officials. Throughout the season, Westbrook was the consistent presence who kept Harden accountable and the two close friends had several verbal exchanges that sources described as “tense, but needed.”
A large chunk of the angst, however, stems from a lack of accountability, sources said. During the January locker room meeting following a home loss to Portland, Westbrook, who was leading the meeting, went around the room indicating what was wrong and what each player needed to do to fix the losing streak, starting with himself, sources said. When it came to Harden, however, he wasn’t as receptive to criticism as other teammates, sources said.
On Thursday, Celtics beat writer Steve Bulpett said he spoke to a league source who told him the Celtics did research on Harden and decided against trading for him because they were told to “keep away.” from the Rockets guard due to whatever went down in Houston.
I'm told from a western source @Celtics actually did some research on James Harden to decide if they should pursue a trade discussion… They were strongly advised to keep away. The word on how things slipped apart in Houston didn't paint a lot of people in a very good light.
— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) November 19, 2020
It’s unclear what happened in Houston to cause the Westbrook-Harden breakup but it must have been real bad for someone to tell the Celtics to stay away from Harden.
With the Celtics out, the Sixers and the Nets are the frontrunners to trade for Harden this offseason.