What I hear: USA TODAY Sports̵

7; Jeff Zillgitt tells what he hears from the Brooklyn Nets on star Kyrie Irving’s absence from the team.


The Houston Rockets solved their James Harden problem.

The Rockets traded Harden to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday in a four-team deal that also involved the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, two people familiar with the deal told U.S. TODAY Sports.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak in public until the deal was officially announced.

The Harden, who was unhappy in Houston, reunites with Kevin Durant, and if and when Kyrie Irving returns, this gives the Nets a super team in the Eastern Conference.

Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum and several first-round picks are on their way to Houston in the Harden deal. The Pacers send Victor Oladipo to Houston for Caris LeVert, and the Cavaliers acquire Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince.

The Rockets receive four unprotected first-round picks: two in 2022, one in 2024 and one in 2026.

After Harden expressed a lack of confidence in the team after Houston’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the Rockets needed to move quickly. The team asked him not to attend Wednesday’s exercise, and teammates, including center DeMarcus Cousins, were unhappy with Harden’s pranks. The situation became untenable.

“We’re just not good enough,” Harden said after a 117-100 loss Tuesday night. “Chemistry, talent-wise, just about everything, and that was clearly those last few games.”

The Rockets had tried to trade with Harden but could not find the right deal. After Harden’s comments, Houston was motivated to cast a disgruntled star. In return, they acquired an All-Star caliber player in Oladipo and coveted drafts.

The Nets now have three stars – depending on Irving’s return – and the deal puts them in a better position to fight for the Eastern Conference championship. Brooklyn is 6-6, but Irving has missed five games, including the last four due to personal reasons.

Oladipo, 28, suffered a serious knee injury in January 2019, but returned in January 2020 and then played in bubble start. This season, he averages 20 points and 33.3 minutes in nine games.

LeVert, on his way to the Pacers, averaged 18.5 points for the Nets as a part-time starter.

Auto play

Show thumbnails

Show captions

Last slideNext slide