1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

[Feigen] Four grueling months: the road to the James Harden trade

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by J.R., Jan 22, 2021.

  1. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
    Messages:
    84,181
    Likes Received:
    89,016


    Rockets players, coaches and staff members gathered in the team dining room that had been set up in the Grand Floridian Disney Resort and Spa. They talked through the night and in most cases until almost sunrise after a crushing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs had ended a season that began with championship aspirations.

    The happy jokes about being Grand Floridian champions as the last team stationed there in the NBA’s playoff bubble were gone as the Rockets sat around those four tables.

    The morning after, James Harden was still talking with the front office about how the Rockets could improve. He was critical of assistant coaches but never expressed issues with coach Mike D’Antoni. Harden’s concerns with the team and its future were clear, however.

    D’Antoni was still talking about staying, but by 11 a.m. on Sept. 13 — on the team’s charter flight back from Orlando — he had decided to leave the Rockets amicably, rather than go through an uncomfortable contract negotiation to stay.

    Four months to the day after that flight landed in Houston, and three months after general manager Daryl Morey decided to move on as well, the Rockets traded James Harden, who had become recognized not just for his excellence on the court or facial hair, but as an important part of a city where he had planted roots as a part owner of the Dynamo soccer team and owner of a new restaurant.

    It was not one final blowup or blowout, no single incident or loss that led to the irreconcilable differences, those close to the process said. Instead, it was series of tremors that led to the final quake that ended a Rockets era.

    A bubble is burst

    [...]

    At times unhappy with how he fit in Houston, Westbrook was especially so in the bubble. He struggled horribly in the Game 2 loss to the Lakers. When Harden played poorly in Game 4, Westbrook, who had never acknowledged his own struggles, called him out. That went over badly, though Harden watched the video and decided Westbrook was right.

    [...]

    The next departure

    Though D’Antoni, Morey and Harden opted to leave for largely the same reasons, they made their decisions independently, aside from sharing the sense the Rockets should rebuild without them.

    The Rockets were not surprised D’Antoni stepped down, only that he did it so quickly.

    Days after returning from Florida, Morey told Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta he was unsure about what he wanted to do with his career. He said he might consider a position outside basketball but that he loved working in the NBA and could again. He wanted to be a free agent and thought the time was right to leave. He was comfortable with the idea of taking a “gap year,” as he famously said just weeks before accepting the job as the Philadelphia 76ers’ president of basketball operations.

    The delay in announcing Morey’s decision was to work through contractual issues, but Fertitta, his son Patrick and Rockets CEO Tad Brown began discussing the management decisions to come. Patrick Fertitta pushed hard to promote from within. Brown and Tilman Fertitta agreed, believing in the philosophy and priorities under Morey, who had spoken often about how he delegated decision making in his department, even as he had become the face of the Rockets’ front office.

    Rafael Stone, who had been with the team for 15 years, first as general counsel and later as one of Morey’s assistants in basketball operations, quickly became the choice to be general manager. Eli Witus, who had been with the team since 2008 under Morey, was promoted to assistant general manager. Monte McNair, another of Morey’s assistants, left to become general manager in Sacramento, although the Rockets made an offer to keep him.

    A new coach and signs of change

    Stone had been leading the coaching search well before he was named general manager on Oct. 15. Morey was part of internal conversations and made many of the initial calls to agents and most notably called Doc Rivers the day he left the Los Angeles Clippers, although Rivers never interviewed with the Rockets. But the Rockets let the candidates know the situation with the front office and Stone led the interviews and ran the process.

    Fertitta initially had only a brief handshake and small-talk meetings with candidates. He made it clear to Stone, Brown and Patrick Fertitta that he would rely on his front office to make recommendations. He often speaks of the importance of knowing what you don’t know in reference to limiting his input on basketball decisions.

    When D’Antoni stepped down, Fertitta knew of Jeff Van Gundy and also thought highly of John Lucas, but reports he wanted Van Gundy were never accurate.

    After Stone and others came away from their first interview raving about Stephen Silas and how prepared he was about a myriad of Rockets issues from style of play to the roster, Fertitta increasingly focused on the candidate the team would eventually choose.

    The notion Harden wanted Tyronn Lue, who had coached LeBron James in Cleveland and was an assistant with the Clippers, was also not a factor or even accurate. The Rockets didn’t know who, if anyone, Harden favored throughout the process, struggling to get his input about any candidate.

    Westbrook told the Rockets he strongly wanted Lue, although by then the team was thinking Westbrook could be traded. Lue canceled one meeting with the Rockets before a dinner meeting with Stone and Brown.

    When Harden and Westbrook, who were kept informed throughout the general manager and coaching hires, had their Zoom sessions with Silas, both endorsed him for the position, with Harden’s approval considered key to the final decision.

    The Rockets, however, were determined to choose a coach for the long term, not just to fit the roster at the time. Westbrook already had hinted he wanted out. His demand would soon follow as he cited a desire for a comfort level he never found, even while playing well for months, with Houston. The Rockets were unsure if they would be able to move him, making the choice of a coach to work with or without him irrelevant. The many unknowns drove the Rockets to ignore the specifics of the roster.

    Westbrook said he wanted to be traded about a week after Silas was hired on Oct. 28. The only serious talks were with the Wizards. The conversations stopped for weeks before Washington reengaged and rapidly agreed to the trade for John Wall and a first-round pick on Dec. 10.
     
    Tfor3, B-Bob, RocketWalta and 14 others like this.
  2. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
    Messages:
    84,181
    Likes Received:
    89,016
    The trade process

    The trade of Harden, the face of the franchise nearly from the moment he arrived just days before the start of the 2012-13 season, was considerably more complicated.

    His reticence to offer an opinion about a coach through the hiring process could have been tied to a feeling he would want to be traded. He similarly did not play a role in free-agent recruiting, as he often had in past seasons. Harden was often in Los Angeles in October and playing with Kevin Durant, a former teammate when the two were in Oklahoma City and now a member of the Nets.

    Harden’s call to Patrick Fertitta in early November with a trade request lasted more than an hour and was friendly, rather than confrontational, a contrast to his defiance in media interviews when he arrived late to training camp in mid-December.

    There were times Harden showed the angry side players see on occasion at practice or after games once Stone let him know he would trade him only on the Rockets’ terms — and to the team that offered them the best deal — rather than adhere to his wish list. But even then, Harden moved on to a more collaborative tone as the Rockets kept him updated, often through his new agents.

    Throughout, Harden was more pensive than upset, seeming ambivalent not about his decision but that he would be leaving Houston, an attitude he retained in another long meeting two days before the Jan. 13 trade to the Nets, his first choice. He even spoke of an openness to the idea, perhaps suggested more out of courtesy than as a plan or goal, to play for the Rockets again, citing his still close relationship to the organization and strong feelings for the city.

    As much attention as had been placed elsewhere about the Rockets’ failure to reach the NBA Finals after years of contender status during Harden’s historic run as one of the game’s top offensive players, there would have been no consideration of moving on from Harden had he not wanted to be traded. The Rockets were so determined to build around him they offered a package that would have been worth a record $150 million over three years.

    Stone, Brown, Witus and the Fertittas already had discussed how they would respond should things go south. They were determined not to let peripheral issues — from Harden’s missing the start of training camp to his comments disparaging the team the night before the trade — impact decision-making.

    Even Silas’ tone in training camp Zoom sessions with the media — the coach was understanding on some occasions; on others, he acknowledged the situation was “a setback” — had been discussed and factored into how it could impact the team and trade talks.

    The reported idea that Tilman Fertitta forbade Stone from making a deal with Morey was incorrect. Not only does Fertitta stay out of trade negotiations, convinced that he lacks the expertise to have a preference and dictate directions, Stone had extensive talks with Morey and reached the point on the day of the trade with Brooklyn that he made one final demand. Had Morey agreed, the Rockets would have sent Harden to Philadelphia.

    On the weekend before the trade, Stone and Morey, who remain close after years as friends and morning commute companions, agreed to skip to the end of the negotiations, with Morey wanting to know what it would take to complete a deal.

    Stone wanted another draft pick or another player, likely Tyrese Maxey, along with agreement on far less protection for the picks in the deal. The 76ers never got there. Morey has since told confidants that he thought the Rockets made a great deal. There were late calls from other teams, but none gained traction.

    The final days

    The trade also did not come about because of Harden’s comments following a pair of blowout losses to the Lakers two weeks ago. After the second, he declared the Rockets “just aren’t good enough.” He had reached that conclusion months earlier, though with some second thoughts after a successful offseason retooling of the roster. He finally went public with them — and played so poorly that night with his heart clearly not in the game — because he had been told the deal was close to completion.

    The Rockets became so determined to complete negotiations that Stone never saw the second half of the loss to the Lakers that night. He had spent the evening on the phone with the Nets and 76ers.

    His teammates did not know at the time why Harden seemed to have already checked out. When DeMarcus Cousins said Harden “disrespected” them, he emphasized he was not talking about the postgame press conference but about “antics.” And the sentiments Cousins expressed hours before the trade had been shared the night before in the locker room with an embarrassing loss still fresh.

    The situation appeared to be on Harden’s mind throughout the game that night. His thoughts spilled out when he said: “I love this city. I’ve literally done everything that I can.” He then seemed to catch himself, stopped and left.

    Stone and Silas spoke with Harden the next morning, and the coach told him not to come to practice. Harden was not going on the trip to San Antonio and Chicago, though that decision would become moot when the trade was completed. Silas and Stone also spoke to the team that day, defining the breakup to come as a chance to “reset” the season.

    With that, an era was over. In many ways, it had ended much earlier.

    Four months to the day before the blowout loss to the Lakers, the Rockets had been similarly routed by Los Angeles, their season closing with one final, telling beating. Even then, Harden offered a clue to what he was thinking and what would come.

    “It’s been an unbelievable experience,” he said that night. “Obviously, didn’t end like we wanted it to.”
     
    Tfor3, awc713, B-Bob and 11 others like this.
  3. snowconeman22

    snowconeman22 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Messages:
    11,483
    Likes Received:
    12,860
    Feigen did a great job of shutting up and listening to Tilman .

    hard to believe he is hands off given what we’ve heard in the past about him making decisions and wanting the team to “take after his killer instinct”

    lol’ed at Patrick being the one to insist we “promote within.” His turn next ?
     
    ipaman, Tfor3, Deuce and 15 others like this.
  4. jordnnnn

    jordnnnn Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    8,327
    Likes Received:
    6,359
    So according to this piece, which is surprisingly more Harden friendly than I would have expected, Westbrook was the one doing most of the demanding and Harden was staying mostly silent?

    Unsurprisingly sounds like Westbrook had no idea how bad he was. Which makes sense.
     
  5. J.R.

    J.R. Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
    Messages:
    84,181
    Likes Received:
    89,016
    Texans have Jack Easterby
    Rockets have Patrick Fertitta

    Not sure which is worse? The son or the preacher snake man who cozied up to the owner.

    “Fertitta, his son Patrick and Rockets CEO Tad Brown began discussing the management decisions to come. Patrick Fertitta pushed hard to promote from within.”

    “He made it clear to Stone, Brown and Patrick Fertitta that he would rely on his front office to make recommendations.”

    “Harden’s call to Patrick Fertitta in early November with a trade request lasted more than an hour...”


    [​IMG]
     
    cbs1507, SamFisher, Mathloom and 6 others like this.
  6. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    14,128
    Likes Received:
    17,354
    LOL the fact that Patrick is so involve in all of this is really stupid. The fact that James had to call Patrick....lmao....what?
     
    cbs1507, Richie_Rich, Ziggy and 7 others like this.
  7. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    14,128
    Likes Received:
    17,354
    This article is unbelievably bad spin. This dude spun everything...and I mean EVERYTHING to make Tillman look good.
     
    Deuce, juanm34, Ziggy and 2 others like this.
  8. Haymitch

    Haymitch Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2005
    Messages:
    23,947
    Likes Received:
    12,977
    Man, it is depressing how influential Til Jr apparently is.
     
  9. D-rock

    D-rock Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Messages:
    25,719
    Likes Received:
    35,876
    Feigan's reputation as Rockets mouth breather and apologist is well earned with this piece.

    MDA did not leave amicably, his actions shocked and surprised everyone. But not his reasons. The most important factor that spurred D'Antoni's decision was the disrespect and insincerity brought about by Fertitta's contract negotiations, roster meddling, LTS shenanigans, lies and not even giving MDA a courtesy call that MDA seemed to expect as a norm.

    Feigan conveniently ignores all this and propagates the Rockets Big Lie propaganda.

    This statement was laughable. It completely contradicts every reported story and actual quotes from Morey, Harden and FO stating how taken aback they were when MDA refused to return while he was still en route back to Houston after end of playoffs.

    Feigan should be embarrassed but he has done this so long, it is as second nature as breathing now.
     
  10. Houston77

    Houston77 COOKIES AND CAKE, MY TEAM BAKED!
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2018
    Messages:
    596
    Likes Received:
    1,403
    Would love to know the terms of this "final demand."
     
    D-rock likes this.
  11. vator

    vator Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2006
    Messages:
    3,314
    Likes Received:
    2,557
    Reports say he wanted the rookie PG from Kentucky, Tyrese Maxey to be included in the trade.
     
    HP3 likes this.
  12. LosPollosHermanos

    LosPollosHermanos Pay tucker
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    Messages:
    25,847
    Likes Received:
    9,588
    Lmao this looks right out of Tilly mouth
     
    Mathloom and HP3 like this.
  13. Gakatron

    Gakatron Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2008
    Messages:
    3,807
    Likes Received:
    1,071
    Hope Tilman paid Feigen well for that piece
     
    Deuce, juanm34, Richie_Rich and 5 others like this.
  14. Patience

    Patience Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2002
    Messages:
    6,114
    Likes Received:
    5,167
    Interesting. Westbrook definitely comes off like an out-of-touch heel in this. I mean the team bent over backwards to accomodate him, and he was godawful in the playoffs. Yet he was the one complaining about his role and calling out Harden for his play? WTF?
     
    gotsis, Cstyle42, Richie_Rich and 7 others like this.
  15. D-rock

    D-rock Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Messages:
    25,719
    Likes Received:
    35,876
    12% discount at Landry's instead of 10%.

    But Feigan still has to pay any delivery fees.
     
    Tfor3 likes this.
  16. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    14,128
    Likes Received:
    17,354
    Who knows if that's even true though? Given how the rest of this freaking piece is written I would not be surprised.
     
    Zboy, joshuaao, Patience and 2 others like this.
  17. HP3

    HP3 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2018
    Messages:
    14,128
    Likes Received:
    17,354
    Also why would Harden call Patrick and not "FATHER FIGURE"
     
    Invisible Fan and CCity Zero like this.
  18. vlaurelio

    vlaurelio Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Messages:
    20,178
    Likes Received:
    10,527
    that's alot of gift cards
     
    D-rock likes this.
  19. D-rock

    D-rock Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2006
    Messages:
    25,719
    Likes Received:
    35,876
    Because we all know that Patrick is being groomed to run the Rockets.

    Stone realized this early and worked hard behind scenes to ensure that Tilman won the bid to purchase the Rockets.

    Being named GM was Stone's reward. Morey has had his hands increasing tied and legs taken from under him by Tilman's cost savings demands and out of nowhere trade negotiations interference.

    Stone through Patrick worked to create these hindrances for Morey.

    Morey saw the writing on the wall.
     
    HP3 and Mr Woods like this.
  20. Mr Woods

    Mr Woods Member

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2020
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    944
    Reading between the lines, I actually feel that Harden had a closer relationship with Patrick than Tilman.
     
    Invisible Fan and D-rock like this.

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now