Ben Simmons insisted he was unfazed about talk over his future with the Philadelphia 76ers after James Harden joined the Brooklyn Nets.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours as the 76ers were linked to Harden, whose move from the Houston Rockets to the Nets was confirmed on Thursday.

But, after the 76ers' 125-108 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday, the 24-year-old said it was just part of the game.

"This is a business, things like that happen," Simmons told a news conference.

"The only thing I can control is how I approach my workouts, the games and my day-to-day things.

"I'm just trying to be professional and do the right thing and help my team get wins."

Asked if he was happy to be in Philadelphia, Simmons responded: "Of course."

Simmons posted a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the win over the Heat.

It was his 30th triple-double in the NBA. Only Oscar Robertson (75 games) and Magic Johnson (190) have managed that quicker than Simmons (228).

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers was delighted with Simmons' performance as the 76ers improved to 9-4.

"I thought tonight is who he has to be every night. I loved the way he played. I loved how he played under control, didn't force it, took gaps when they were there," he said.

"He was a presence on the floor for us and not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end as well and that takes us to a different level when he plays like that."

Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks is confident Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden will gel as they work towards a "common goal".

The Nets confirmed on Thursday they had completed a blockbuster trade to land eight-time All-Star Harden from the Houston Rockets.

Questions have been asked over whether Durant, Harden and Irving can work together, but Marks is confident.

"These guys have given us the right answers. They've said hey, they want to play together, they can see this fitting," he told a news conference.

"They're at a time in their careers – I don't want to speak for each one of them because I let them have their own their own voice and their narrative around this – but I think they understand that there's without a doubt going to be some nights where one or two need to sacrifice for the other and so forth. But I think they're all looking for a common goal.

"We’re all looking for that common goal, as I've said before, is to be the last team standing. I think when you have a group that is willing to sacrifice, and play hard, play together on the court, and they already have a relationship, a prior relationship to this, so I think that will help."

Harden, Durant and Irving all rank in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring average since the latter's rookie season in 2011-12 (minimum 500 games).

Durant or Harden have won seven of the past 11 NBA scoring titles. No Brooklyn qualifier has ever finished higher than fifth in the league.

Marks said the opportunity to land a player like Harden came at a good time for the Nets.

"The timing was right for us. And fortunately, any time you get an opportunity to acquire or try to acquire a player of this calibre it's something you do look hard at [and] is something we did," he said.

"The process sped up very, very rapidly and very quickly over the last 48 hours."

James Harden has been thanked by the Houston Rockets after being traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

Three-time NBA scoring champion Harden has linked up with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, who have gone all in on a championship run by bringing in the 2018 MVP.

The Nets gave up Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert, Radions Kurucs, three first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) to acquire Harden.

Allen and Prince were sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who provided Houston with Dante Exum and a 2022 first-round pick via the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooklyn received a 2024 second-round pick from the Cavs to complete the deal.

The Rockets are expected to send LeVert and a 2023 second-round pick to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo.

Harden requested a trade prior to the start of the season and following a 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday he said: "It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

The Rockets granted their franchise player his wish on Thursday and owner Tilman Fertitta praised him for his achievements in Houston.

"On behalf of the entire Rockets organisation and the City of Houston, I'd like to thank James Harden for an amazing eight-plus seasons in a Rockets uniform," said Fertitta in a statement.

"James has provided us with so many great memories as we've watched him grow from Sixth Man of the Year to a perennial All-Star and MVP.

"My family and I also want to thank James for his many off the court contributions, including generous charitable donations and multiple annual community events.

"We wish James the best of luck and will always be grateful for the memories."

Harden is second on the Rockets' all-time scoring list with 18,365 points, only trailing Hakeem Olajuwon (26,511) – a two-time NBA champion in Houston.

He averaged 29.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists during his time with the Rockets.

Harden led them to the Western Conference Finals in 2014-15 and 2017-18, losing to the Golden State Warriors on both occasions.

LaMelo Ball's NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets got off to a subpar start. 

In fact that might just be a generous description of his NBA debut. It was downright brutal. 

The third overall pick of this year's draft played a scoreless 15 minutes in his first game, missing all five of his field-goal attempts in Charlotte’s 121-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 23. 

Not only did he fail to score, the highly-touted playmaker also turned the ball over three times, becoming only the second player in the last 35 years to finish without a point while taking at least five shots with three or more turnovers in 15-plus minutes in their NBA debut, joining the Golden State Warriors' Brandon Williams in 1998. 

While he got off to a shaky start, things have since gone much better. 

Better actually might not be kind enough in describing his recent play. He's been outstanding. 

On the onset of the 2020 draft, the 6-foot-7 point guard was widely considered to have the highest ceiling of all the prospects. An adept ball-handler, scouts marvelled at his passing, court vision and his ability to push the ball up the court. 

Though Ball possesses an immense skillset and has a comprehensive understanding of the game, making the jump from Australia's National Basketball League to the NBA would admittedly take time. 

It took him all of one week. 

With 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on December 30, he became the first player in the last 35 years to reach those numbers in just his fourth game, and he's continued to stuff the stat sheet with impressive numbers. 

Since then, he's had two more games with 15 or more points, eight or more rebounds and five or more assists. Only four other players have had more such games in that span – the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (six), Mavericks' Luka Doncic (five), New York Knicks' Julius Randle (five) and Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (four). 

Over the course of three games from January 8-11, he racked up 42 points, 36 rebounds and 27 assists, joining Ben Simmons in 2017 and Lamar Odom in 2000 as the only rookies in the last 35 years with at least 40 points, 35 boards and 25 assists over a three-game span. 

In the middle game of that three-match stretch, Ball made history. At 19 years and 140 days, he became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double by notching 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in Saturday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. 

Despite stumbling out of the gate with his forgettable debut, he still reached the 10-game mark with 131 points, 63 rebounds and 59 assists. In the last 35 seasons, only two other rookies have reached those numbers after 10 games – James in 2003 and Simmons in 2017. 

Ball's passing has been as advertised. He's finding his open team-mates and setting them up for success. 

Among the 100 players with at least 30 assists, he has the league's 10-best assist rate – the estimation of percentage of field goals made by team-mates while he's on the floor. At 36.8 per cent, Ball sits just a bit back of James, whose eighth at 37.6. 

With 71 assists on the season, Ball has eight fewer assists than Devonte' Graham for the most on the Hornets. He does, however, lead Charlotte with 84 rebounds, and if he does surpass Graham and finish the season leading the team in both rebounds and assists, he'll join Michael Jordan in 1984-85 and Blake Griffin in 2010-11, as the only rookies in the last 40 years to lead their team in both categories. 

Not only is Ball flourishing in the part of his game many thought he would eventually excel in, he is also finding success in areas that were believed to be some of his biggest weaknesses – shooting and defense. 

After shooting a dreadful 24 per cent from 3-point range in Australia's NBL, Ball is making a respectable 33.9 per cent of his 3s. Nothing outstanding, but the league average on 3s is 36.6 per cent. 

He’s also showing a proficiency at knocking down shots just inside the arc. His 50 per cent shooting on mid-range jumpers is tied with seven others for 17th in the NBA among those with at least 100 field-goal attempts. 

Defense was another area that many expected would take Ball time to grasp and be competent in, but he’s already proven to be up to speed, leading all rookies with 22 defensive stops. 

Not only does he lead all first-year players in defensive stops, he also leads all rookies in points (143), rebounds (84), assists (71), as well as steals (18). 

If Ball continues to thrive on the court and finishes the season leading all rookies in points, rebounds and assists, he’ll become just the seventh player in NBA history to accomplish that feat, joining Elgin Baylor (1958-59), Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60), Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Walt Bellamy (1961-62), Alvin Adams (1975-76) and Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14). 

Not surprising, but each of the previous six won the Rookie of the Year Award. 

Playing at a level few rookies have before him, Ball is the early frontrunner to win this season's award. 

Good thing for him the trophy isn't handed out after one game. 

Trinity Rodman, the daughter of five-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman, was taken second in the NWSL draft and is now looking to make her own name.

Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Dennis Rodman was hugely successful in the NBA, winning two championships with the Detroit Pistons and three with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

His sporting excellence is also evident in his children, son DJ and daughter Trinity, both born to third wife Michelle Moyer.

DJ Rodman is a forward for Washington State, averaging 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds through five games this season, but Trinity Rodman has taken her talents to football.

The 18-year-old enrolled at the same college but never made her bow due to the coronavirus pandemic, although she was nominated for US Soccer's Young Female Player of the Year award after starring for the United States Under-20 team.

Trinity Rodman was taken second by Washington Spirit, behind USWNT defender Emily Fox in the draft on Wednesday.

But the forward is keen not to rely on her famous father to catch the eye as she makes her first steps in the professional game.

"[Dennis] was an amazing athlete, and I got those genes from him," she said. "But I'm excited to be known as Trinity Rodman and not just as Rodman's daughter.

"I'm excited to pave my own path and get better throughout this journey."

She added: "To even just be in the draft with my situation and my age is insane, but to be number two to an amazing team is out of this world, like I couldn't ask for anything more."

Dennis Rodman described Trinity as "the number one soccer player in the world right now" last year in a video message to Andrea Petagna.

He mistakenly believed the Napoli striker was a woman, a comical gaffe shared by the Serie A star on social media.

James Harden has completed a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets, it has been confirmed.

Widespread reports on Wednesday revealed Harden's eight-and-a-half-year stay in Houston was set to end, with the Nets agreeing a monster deal.

The Philadelphia 76ers had also been mooted as potential suitors, but Brooklyn's offer saw the Rockets receive Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, three first-round draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027).

In a three-way move, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince were sent to the Cleveland, who put in Dante Exum and a further first-round draft pick (2022 via Milwaukee) for Houston as well as a second-round draft pick (2024) for the Nets.

The Rockets are expected to swiftly move LeVert and a second-round pick on to the Indiana Pacers for Victor Oladipo, although that switch was not initially confirmed alongside the Harden deal on Thursday.

Harden had been keen on a move prior to the start of the 2020-21 season and has now got his wish, linking up with Kevin Durant - his former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate - and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said: "Adding an All-NBA player such as James to our roster better positions our team to compete against the league's best.

"James is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in our game, and we are thrilled to bring his special talents to Brooklyn.

"While we are excited to welcome James and his family to the Nets, we also want to thank the players who are departing.

"Caris, Jarrett, Rodions and Taurean were instrumental to the team's success and have made an enormous impact on our organisation.

"It has been a pleasure watching them grow both as players and as people and they will always be part of our Nets family. We wish each of them and their families all the best in the future."

Although trade talks were said to be ongoing for some time, speculation ramped up in the hours after Houston's defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

An out-of-sorts Harden put up just 16 points in 31 minutes in the 117-100 defeat and later stormed out of a post-game news conference after saying: "I literally have done everything that I can."

Those comments prompted a backlash from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, who both signed in the offseason as Houston once again rebuilt.

The Rockets failed to win a championship during Harden's time despite reaching the Western Conference Finals in both 2014-15 and 2017-18, with their star guard the league's MVP in the latter season.

Harden averaged 29.6 points per game in the regular season during his time with Houston, although that dropped slightly to 28.4 in the playoffs.

His return of 24.8 points through eight games this year was his worst average over a season for the Rockets.

James Harden has completed a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets, it has been confirmed.

Dallas Mavericks duo Luka Doncic and Rick Carlisle were delighted to see Kristaps Porzingis back in action after the Latvian made his first appearance of the NBA season on Wednesday. 

Having undergone knee surgery in October, Porzingis had missed Dallas' first nine games as he continued his recovery.

A potential return on Monday was then scuppered when the clash with the New Orleans Pelicans was postponed in accordance with the league's health and safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

However, the former first-round pick by the New York Knicks was finally able to take the court again against the Charlotte Hornets, contributing 16 points during his 21 minutes in a 104-93 triumph. 

"He' an amazing player," Doncic - who led the way with 34 points - said, according to Dallas' official website. 

"He's got to get back into rhythm, and I think for the first game he played amazing. He's going to keep improving and we're going to need him a lot."

Mavs coach Carlisle admitted Porzingis' return – admittedly on a restriction in terms of minutes – makes a huge difference to the team, including helping to alleviate some of the pressure on the shoulders of Doncic. 

"When both of those guys are out there, it's a game-changer for us because you've got two guys that can both play on the inside and really space the floor on the outside," Carlisle said.  

"They can both put the ball on the floor and make plays. 

"You get two franchise players, it's important to have them on the floor together and available to play. You look at every team in this league, if they're without one of their cornerstone guys it's going to be a lot tougher job. 

"I think everybody feels a lot better now that KP is back in the mix."

The game was also notable for Carlisle in terms of a personal milestone, as he reached 800 victories in his coaching career.

Porzingis himself accepted he had been a little too eager to make an impact during his comeback, knowing his involvement in the game was always going to be limited. 

"What I think didn’t help me was knowing that I had the minutes restrictions," Porzingis said. "I was trying to do as much as I could in those minutes that I had. 

"Sometimes you don't make the best decisions when you really want to be aggressive, but it's okay. I wanted to be aggressive for the time I was going to be out there, and most importantly [it was the] first game and first win for me."

The Los Angeles Lakers set a franchise record after winning again on the road, while Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic made NBA history.

LeBron James posted 26 points and defending champions the Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-99 on Wednesday.

The streaking Lakers (10-3), who have won four successive games, improved to 7-0 away from home this season – surpassing the 1985-86 team for the best start on the road.

James has had at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in all 13 games this season. In the last 30 years, the only NBA player to have a longer streak of 15/five/five games to start a season was James himself in 2011-12 (22 straight), according to Stats Perform.

Lakers team-mate Montrezl Harrell had 21 points, while Anthony Davis put up 18 points and seven rebounds in Oklahoma City midweek.

Doncic became the first player in NBA history to post 34 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, four blocks, two steals and five threes made, per Stats Perform.

The Mavericks went on to win 104-93 and snap the Charlotte Hornets' four-game winning streak.

Mavericks star Kristaps Porzingis returned from a knee injury and scored 16 points in his first appearance since undergoing surgery in October.

 

Red-hot Giannis fuels Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo's triple-double guided the Milwaukee Bucks past the Detroit Pistons 110-101. The two-time reigning MVP finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 20th career triple-double.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum put on a show as the Portland Trail Blazers prevailed 132-126 against the Sacramento Kings. Lillard (40 points and 13 assists) and McCollum (28 points and 10 assists) became the first team-mate duo in NBA history to have 25-plus points, 10-plus assists and five-plus three-pointers made in the same game, per Stats Perform. They are also the first duo in the NBA to have 25-plus points, 10-plus assists and one or fewer turnovers in the same game since 1987.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker starred with 37 points, but the New Orleans Pelicans still lost 111-106 to the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard (28) and Paul George (27) combined for 55 points in the Clippers' win.

The Memphis Grizzlies topped the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-107 behind Jonas Valanciunas' 24 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Knicks duo struggle

The New York Knicks did not get much support from their two starting point guards in a 116-109 loss to city rivals the Brooklyn Nets. Austin Rivers was three-of-10 shooting from the field and two-of-five from three-point range for eight points in 34 minutes. Elfrid Peyton was just three of 11 from the field, while making just one of three-point attempts as he finished with seven points in 33 minutes.

 

Nurkic says no!

There was no way past Jusuf Nurkic as the Trail Blazers big man denied Glenn Robinson III in the fourth quarter.

 

Wednesday's results

Dallas Mavericks 104-93 Charlotte Hornets
Milwaukee Bucks 110-101 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 116-109 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies 118-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 128-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 111-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers 132-126 Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz-Washington Wizards (postponed)
Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics (postponed)
Atlanta Hawks-Phoenix Suns (postponed)

 

Rockets at Spurs

As James Harden reportedly heads to the Nets, the Houston Rockets (3-6) will look to cast the chaos aside when they face the San Antonio Spurs (6-5) on the road on Thursday.

The James Harden saga is set to end.

Harden will reportedly swap the Houston Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets in a mega trade, reuniting with Kevin Durant and teaming up with Kyrie Irving.

The Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly frontrunners to prise the former NBA MVP to the 'City of Brotherly Love', but Daryl Morey refused to part with franchise pillar Ben Simmons and others.

Instead, the Nets reportedly sent Caris LeVert – later traded to the Indiana Pacers as Victor Oladipo was dealt to the Rockets – and four first-round draft picks, plus four pick swaps, to Houston, in a deal also involving the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets also gave up Taurean Prince and talented center Jarrett Allen, who were sent to the Cavaliers, and Rockets-bound forward Rodions Kurucs.

It puts an end to a messy divorce between Harden and Rockets, after the disgruntled eight-time All-Star made no secret of his desire to depart as his frustrations boiled over post-game on Tuesday – sparking criticism from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

Attention now turns to Brooklyn's new super team and how Harden fits alongside Durant and Irving – if and when he returns from his personal absence – in first-year head coach Steve Nash's quest to deliver a championship to the Nets.

Harden, who is eyeing a maiden NBA title, had called Houston home since 2012, guiding the Rockets to two Western Conference Finals and three semi-final appearances after his acquisition from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 31-year-old sharpshooter – team-mates with Durant at the Thunder between 2009 and 2012 – brings a high volume of three-point and free-throw attempts to Brooklyn, not to mention a dominant scorer, which the Nets have rarely had.

Harden attempted the most three-pointers in 2019-20 with 843, and he also topped the free-throw attempts category at 800. Prince topped Brooklyn's 3PA list with 431, while Spencer Dinwiddie stepped to the line on 446 occasions.

In terms of individual seasons averaging 30.0-plus points, Harden boasts three seasons, while Durant has two. The Nets? 0. John Williamson's high of 29.5 points per game in 1977-78 (in just 33 games) is the closest.

In each of the past three seasons heading into the 2020-21 campaign, Harden had earned the NBA scoring title. Durant has claimed four honours, compared to the Nets' all-time haul of 0 after Keith Van Horn finished fifth in 1998-99. Harden and Durant have won seven of the past 11 scoring crowns.

Harden brings a resume with a lot of wins and postseason experience, as did Irving and Durant as former NBA champions with the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors respectively. The Nets have lost in the first round in back-to-back seasons, while not since 2003 have they featured in the Finals.

Harden boasts a team win percentage of 64.9 in regular-season games in which he has played, while he has amassed 128 playoff appearances.

The issue of Harden signing for the Nets is centred on possession and distribution, given he, Durant and Irving are ball carriers.

Looking at the highest usage percentage – an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor – since 2014-15 to get an idea of how the Nets could make it work with the trio, and Harden (second, 35.3 per cent), Durant (eighth, 29.6 per cent) and Irving (ninth, 29.4 per cent) rank in the top 10. The NBA average is 20.0 per cent.

In 2019-20, points scored by Harden and points scored off his assists averaged 52.4 per game. It followed 53.9 in 2018-19, 51.3 in 2017-18 and 56 the season previous.

That marked four successive seasons with 50-plus points per game created, tying Oscar Robertson (1963-64 to 1966-67) for the longest streak in NBA history.

Harden averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per regular-season game for the Rockets, who lost in the Western Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort, in 2019-20.

Kevin Durant said his previous experience playing alongside James Harden was "fun" ahead of the pair's expected reunion at the Brooklyn Nets.

Harden was reportedly traded from the Houston Rockets to the Nets on Wednesday in a four-team deal also involving the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.

Durant and Harden spent three seasons together with the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012 before the latter headed to Houston.

Asked about his previous experience playing with Harden, Durant told a news conference: "It was fun."

Durant was unwilling to discuss the trade, which is yet to be confirmed, further.

The star had 26 points, six assists and three rebounds in the Nets' 116-109 win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Durant became the second Nets player with 25-plus points in eight consecutive games, joining Bernard King (January 1979).

He played on back-to-back days for the first time since rupturing his Achilles during the 2019 NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors.

"I wanted to see how my body felt this morning, how I felt after the game last night," Durant said.

"I was just trying to monitor everything leading up until the game and obviously throughout the game and I felt good.

"Hopefully I keep building on it and as the season goes along I continue to keep getting stronger and get used to the game again, the schedule, the travel, everything, so this is a good step."

The Nets improved to 7-6 with their win over the Knicks.

Steve Nash said the Brooklyn Nets needed to find "connectivity and balance" amid reports they have acquired James Harden.

Reports on Wednesday said former NBA MVP Harden was joining the Nets from the Houston Rockets in a trade that also involved the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Speaking ahead of the Nets' clash against the New York Knicks, Nash was unwilling to comment on the reports, which would see eight-time All-Star Harden join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.

But, asked how superstars could gel, especially if the Nets get another, first-year head coach Nash said: "Basketball is about playing together and being the best you can be.

"No matter who you are it's about finding that connectivity and balance within a team and trying to be greater than the sum of your parts.

"That doesn't change no matter what your team looks like and that's definitely a goal and a thread of our team from day one."

Reports said Caris LeVert, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs and four first-round picks – and four Nets pick swaps – were heading to Houston.

The Rockets are reportedly sending LeVert to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo.

Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince are said to be joining the Cavs.

The reported move came a day after Harden's frustrations boiled over following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Rockets star walked out of his post-game news conference, not before telling the media: "I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can.

"This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

Rockets duo John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were both critical of Harden.

Led by Harden, the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and 2018, while Houston have three semi-final appearances since he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson will miss the Los Angeles Clippers matchup due to the NBA's health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pelicans announced Williamson's absence prior to Wednesday's tip-off against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

New Orleans were already set to be without Lonzo Ball (knee) and Eric Bledsoe (eye) for the Clippers showdown as they try to arrest a three-game slump.

Williamson – the number one draft pick in 2019 – has been averaging 21.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Pelicans (4-5) this season.

It comes after the NBA postponed Wednesday's Atlanta Hawks-Phoenix Suns game due to league rules on health and safety protocols.

The scheduled midweek contests between the Utah Jazz-Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics were also postponed amid the growing impact of COVID-19 on the NBA season.

The Brooklyn Nets are reportedly acquiring Houston Rockets star James Harden in a blockbuster deal.

ESPN reported on Wednesday that eight-time All-Star Harden was joining the Nets in a deal also including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The report said Caris LeVert, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs and four first-round picks – and four Nets pick swaps – were heading to Houston.

The Rockets are reportedly sending LeVert to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Victor Oladipo.

Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince are said to be joining the Cavs.

The reported move came a day after Harden's frustrations boiled over following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Rockets star walked out of his post-game news conference, not before telling the media: "I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can.

"This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

Rockets duo John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were both critical of Harden.

Led by Harden, the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and 2018, while Houston have three semi-final appearances since he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

James Harden appears increasingly likely to be traded by the Houston Rockets as his team-mates continue to vocalise opposition to the wantaway superstar.

Harden's desire to move elsewhere was evident in the offseason as both the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers were heavily linked.

No deal was agreed before the campaign began, however, and the 2018 MVP has played in eight of the 3-6 Rockets' nine games so far, scoring 24.8 points per game - his worst average since joining the team in 2012.

Harden's frustrations boiled over after Houston's latest 117-100 defeat to defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

He stormed out of a post-game news conference after saying: "I literally have done everything that I can. This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

Those comments prompted backlash from All-Star team-mate John Wall, and Wednesday brought fresh reports of trade talks.

According to the New York Times, the Rockets want to do a deal with the Sixers for Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, the rookie who has excelled amid Philadelphia's COVID-19 crisis.

The Athletic said Houston were looking for a swift resolution and could be offered all of the Nets' future first-round picks and pick swaps.

Harden's Rockets colleagues already look to be moving on, with DeMarcus Cousins facing the media on Wednesday to offer his take on the "antics".

"Obviously it's disrespectful, but everybody has their words and their opinions," Cousins said. "We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions.

"This is the nasty part of the business that kind of gets swept under the rug. You deal with these type of things when guys are in positions of being franchise players or whatever the case may be.

"It's sometimes or usually a nasty break-up. That's all part of this business.

"You know I'm going to say this: coming in every day, we want to work, get better, lead this younger group.

"Regardless of what's going on with the team, the guys that are showing up, that are committed, that are buying into the task at hand, we're going to go to war with those guys.

"Whatever those results are, we're going to live with it. We're going to leave it all on the floor and whatever happens happens."

He added: "The other 14 guys of the locker room have done nothing to him. We've only showed up to work like everybody else. It's completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room."

Cousins was asked if he felt betrayed by Harden's behaviour, having only signed for the team last month, but replied he was more interested in playing with Wall.

"Me personally, I don't feel betrayed at all," he said. "My interest was to play with John Wall, to be brutally honest.

"That being said, the disrespect started way before any interview. [It was] just the approach to the training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court.

"The disrespect started way before. This isn't something that all of a sudden happened last night. With that being said, this is the nasty part of the business. It is what it is."

Asked if there was any way Harden could be welcomed back into the team, Cousins said: "I don't really think that's a question for us.

"I think that's a question for him: will he ever play with us again? I don't know. Quite honestly, I don't care."

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