James Harden and Kevin Durant, together again?
According to ESPN.com’s Calvin Watkins, last year’s MVP runner-up will be leading the Rockets’ recruitment of his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate:
The Rockets’ best player and leading scorer will become the main recruiter this summer in the franchise’s quest to sign Kevin Durant, whom Harden played with for three seasons in Oklahoma City.
Durant hasn’t given any hints he’ll leave the Thunder. But speculation ranges from him playing close to home in Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, where one Rockets official believes he’ll reside if he leaves Oklahoma City and doesn’t choose Houston.
The Rockets front office has talked to Harden about recruiting, and Harden is ready to play his part.
“In order to put yourself as an elite team, you always got to have talent, right?” Harden said while not addressing Durant specifically. “You always got to get better and find ways to improve. That’s any team.”
If this were last year, when the Rockets were fresh off a Western Conference Finals bid, you would have to peg them as one of the favorites to land Durant if he chose to leave Oklahoma City. But a significant regression on the defensive end, coupled with their plummet down the West’s standings, makes the Rockets an incredibly tough sell.
General manager Daryl Morey may be able to carve out two max-contract slots if Houston cuts bait with Dwight Howard, allowing him to pitch Durant on the prospect of playing with Harden while still having enough juice to flesh out the roster around them. The Rockets can also promise him a say in who becomes their next head coach.
But Durant has to weigh every possible decision against his next team’s chances of winning a title with him. And to do that, he’ll have to account for the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, neither of whom appears fated to fall off anytime soon. The Rockets, as currently constructed, don’t hold up to those comparisons even with Durant, so in all likelihood, it’s going to take a lot of tinkering and upgrading for the 2013-14 MVP to legitimately consider spurning the comfy fines of Oklahoma City for the risk-riddled situation in Houston.