It’s rare that trade demands are lodged before the later stages of a contract, closer to the player’s free agency. Don’t forget, furthermore, that no-trade clauses in the N.B.A. are difficult for players to obtain, requiring a minimum of eight years of service time and four with the same team.
As for Harden, well, this is as messy as a trade request gets, so dismay with the brazen manner in which he appeared to be trying to force a trade last month is understandable. Harden’s status with the Rockets will be a distraction until he gets moved. But let’s not go overboard.
Q: I was wondering if the N.B.A. or anyone associated with the league records the outcomes on jump balls. I know there aren’t that many jump balls in each individual game, but there are surely players who must have participated in numerous jump balls over time. Is there any way to figure out who ranks as the game’s Jump Ball King? — Richard Perry (New York)
Stein: In this statistical age, given how much N.B.A. data is tracked on so many different sites, it’s a disheartening surprise to see that fresh jump ball data is not easy to find. It appears that this FanSided page, which has amassed individual data on jump ball winners from the 1996-97 season to 2016-17, is as thorough as it gets.
This is not a difficult stat to track, so it’s unclear why more current results don’t appear on multiple sites. The reality, though, is that a jump ball king would be nearly impossible to identify, because 1996-97 was the first season that the N.B.A. began officially recording and archiving play-by-play data.
So I’m afraid we’ll have to add this to the N.B.A.’s long list of statistical mysteries, which most prominently features the sad inability to know just how ferocious Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain truly were as shot-blockers. Blocks and steals did not become official box score stats until the 1973-74 season — and the limited game film from the league’s early years means that even enterprising researchers with time on their hands can’t just go back and do the math manually by studying old tapes.
Q: How is Orlando allowing fans but not Miami? — @numberthirty6 from Twitter
Stein: In the few states where reduced crowds are allowed in N.B.A. arenas, it’s still a franchise-by-franchise choice on whether to let fans inside.