A quick story before we unpack James Harden’s six-degree NBA trade deadline day that didn’t disappoint…

It’s October 16, 2020, and I’ve agreed to do a phone interview with Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and then-team general manager Daryl Morey. Also on the conference call is Athletic’s Rockets screenwriter Kelly Iko.

The subject? Morey’s unexpected resignation.

We are only a few minutes away and tensions are rising.

For reasons no one could fully comprehend at the time, everyone most important to Harden in Houston was heading for the exits. Coach Mike D’Antoni had left in dramatic form the previous month, leaking a statement on his pick as the team returned from the Orlando bubble, where they fell flat against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Then came Morey, who cited family reasons at the time but landed in Philadelphia as president of basketball operations a few weeks later. Harden would force his way to Brooklyn two months later, when sources claim Fertitta let him choose between the Sixers and the Nets and Harden unwittingly sparked NBA chaos by opting for the latter.

Ben Simmons, of course, believed at the time that he was about to be traded from the Sixers to the Rockets and was even buying homes in the Houston area in anticipation of his move. His anger at the failed deal had everything to do with his choice to sit out most of this season. But back to the Rockets exodus.

Tad Brown, longtime CEO of the Rockets and close friend of Harden, resigned after the season and landed with…the Sixers (and NHL’s New Jersey Devils) as CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. The league-wide points connection started from there.