The NBA is a treacherous place for players and front office members alike. We’ve seen and heard tons of stories where a player was betrayed by his organization, or where a player betrayed another teammate in his quest for the riches and fame.
At the end of the day, it is a business, and everyone is going to do what is in their best interest, even at the expense of others in certain situations. James Harden, who has “played with more superstars than Kim Kardashian” (according to Kendrick Perkins) reassured Kevin Durant that he’d re-sign to Brooklyn twice this past summer, and now he’s a Philadelphia 76er.
According to The Ringer, Harden “twice reassured Durant that he’d sign an extension to stay in Brooklyn long term” when traveling together in Greece. This was said following last year’s playoff elimination to the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games. A series that saw Kevin Durant dominate and carry a Brooklyn Nets team that was fighting injuries to some of their best players, including Harden who was battling a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the series just 43 seconds into Game 1.
Everyone saw the timeline of Harden and the Brooklyn Nets, and how this super team unraveled in front of our very eyes before they were even able to get started. This team was projected to be one of the greatest teams in NBA history, as they had three of the greatest scorers and players of all time in the same uniform.
There is an art to ring chasing, and the key is patience. The lack of patience is what led to Harden forcing a trade to Philly right before the trade deadline.
Harden wanted to win, and he wanted to win now, and he felt that with Kyrie Irving not playing due to his reluctance to take the vaccine, and KD fighting a knee injury, he would be tasked with carrying a Brooklyn Nets team with subpar talent on it. Essentially what happened to him in Houston before he got traded to Brooklyn.
The 2018 MVP did a great job of using his expiring contract to leverage a trade before the deadline, implying that if still in Brooklyn, he would test free agency in the summer and leave. Front offices understand the risks they run of hoping a talented player stays with them when other options abound. Brooklyn realized Harden didn’t want to be in NYC anymore due to personnel issues and not being able to have the guys he wanted to play with on the court.
Harden’s become an All-Star nomad, playing with three teams in a span of two seasons. Nobody was mad at Harden for wanting to leave Houston in 2021 (besides Rockets fans). He dedicated nine years of his life and his prime years to helping them become Western Conference contenders every year. Unfortunately, they were always the bridesmaid, falling short of a trip to the NBA Finals.
Outside of the oft-injured CP3, the organization failed to surround Harden with real help towards the back end of his time there, and the offensive load he carried wasn’t going to effectively win titles for Houston.
When Harden used his superstar leverage to force a trade out of Houston to Brooklyn, everyone was relieved for him, and that pumped an overwhelming sense of optimism into a franchise who had already recently acquired KD and Kyrie.
So, when just one short season later, Harden wanted out of Brooklyn, it sent the NBA world spinning and left Harden open to more criticism. Ironically just a month and some change later, New York lifted the vaccine mandate for athletes, which allows Kyrie to be a full-time player, changing the trajectory of the Nets season heading into the playoffs.
Harden this year averages 22 points per game, eight rebounds, and 10 assists per game with the Nets and Sixers this season, and as we know now, Harden ultimately will not be re-signing with Brooklyn, and he claims to be re-signing with Philly, who could line his pockets with a massive extension that can go over $250 million.
With Harden’s tendency to switch up on a franchise, and his recurring interest in being a free agent, it’s not even certain that Harden is a Sixer next year, especially if Philly has an emotional playoff meltdown like last year. Harden’s future is up in the air for all we know.