Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone justified his decision to treat the permanent candidate for the Brooklyn Nets succession above other offers by citing the flexibility that a historic first-round pick in the James Harden business would bring to the franchise.

In a deal that officially closed on Saturday, Houston received three unprotected first-round picks (2022, 2024, 2026) from the Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick in 2022 from the Cleveland Cavaliers and the right to trade first-round picks with Brooklyn in four years. Victor Oladipo, former All-Star shooter Dante Exum and attacker Rodions Kurucs also traveled to Houston as part of the contract.

According to sources, in the hours leading up to the deal to send Harden to Brooklyn on Wednesday, the Rockets also spoke extensively with the Philadelphia 76ers, who offered a package with NBA All-NBA guard Ben Simmons as a headliner.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about other [proposals], Stone said at a virtual press briefing on Sunday. I would say that the most interesting thing about this agreement is that it gives us flexibility. In the NBA, spikes are the best currency, especially high spikes. Everyone loves them. Everyone likes them. Organizationally, it was great. This has given us the opportunity to enter into different types of agreements as they arise this year, next year or any year.

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Then we have Victor Oladipo, along with [Kuruks and Exum], but Victor is a guy we really like. I think he’s very excited to be here and we think he’s very talented, which wasn’t insignificant from our point of view.

The Rockets also benefited from a $10.6 million trade exception. Stone said the Rockets will try to aggressively use the exception before the end of the March deadline.

Stone said Harden’s harsh comments following Tuesday night’s disproportionate loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, when the superstar said the Rockets simply weren’t good enough and that he didn’t think the situation could be fixed, didn’t spark the business discussion.

I can guarantee that it didn’t affect us, said Stone, a former Rocket staffer who was promoted to chief executive officer after Daryl Morey resigned in October.

Stone said the Rockets began the season looking for a deal for Harden, who asked for a contract during the offseason and withdrew briefly at the start of training camp to make it clear he would not change his mind.

He has made the decision he has made and we are all moving on, Mr Stone said. He’s a great basketball player. I wish him nothing but the best.

Oladipo, a two-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers whose career was interrupted when he tore his right quadriceps tendon in January 2019, joined the Rockets for Sunday’s practice.

The interesting thing about this agreement is that it gives us flexibility. In the NBA, spikes are the best currency, especially high spikes. Everyone loves them. Everyone likes them.


GM rocket scientist Rafael Stone, on a four-way exchange that sent James Harden to the Nets.

Oladipo, who is averaging 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in nine games for the Pacers this season, is in the final year of his contract. He acknowledged the commercial aspect of his situation, but was excited to join the Rockets and said the team had the same mentality as him.

He said his only priority this season will be to win and that he will wait until the offseason before assessing his long-term compatibility with the franchise.

It is basically like a business plan, Mr Oladipo said. You need to go through all aspects of a business plan before you know if you want to invest in it. I just go out there and do my best with an open mind and an open heart and do everything I can to help this team win.

When it comes time to do the rest after the season, I’ll think about it. But right now I’m focused on winning, playing and helping this team. I’m not attached to anything but this.

Oladipo said he was especially looking forward to working with former All-Star playmaker John Wall in the backcourt, who will miss his third straight game on Sunday due to a sore knee. Oladipo said he already had a relationship with Wall, who is also returning from a long absence with a serious injury, and that he had great respect for the leader’s competitive fire.

I can’t wait to compete with him, especially because I know his mentality, Oladipo said. He wants to win, and I want to do the same. Clearly we both have fleas on our shoulders, but I can’t wait to see what kind of damage we can do to them.

Mr. Stone said he was looking forward to assessing Oladipo’s approach to missiles.

They hope it’s the perfect marriage, Stone said. He’s a very talented player. He’s a two-way street. He played at an unusually high level. It is clear that he was seriously injured. He’s back. He’s already very, very good, but I think he has room to grow in his mind and in ours, which is very exciting.

I think it’s a very exciting time for him and for us to see if we can make it work. Let’s hope it only works with the bandits, and then we’ll take over.


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