The general public will likely never know specifics, but the end of James Harden's tenure with the Brooklyn Nets seemed messy from the outside. Harden grew visibly frustrated with each passing game after the new year, posted some obscenely bad statlines, then pleaded injury and missed a handful of games leading up to the trade deadline. Then Harden appeared to play a weird game in the public eye where he didn't want to officially request a trade out of Brooklyn because of the poor optics but allowed that information to make its way to Adrian Wojnarowski.
Harden is now in Philadelphia with the 76ers, sent there in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and draft picks. It's a trade that both sides will probably end up pleased with. Daryl Morey got his guy and the Nets got something in exchange for a guy who didn't want to be with the team anymore. But this kind of divorce between team and player usually leads to some nasty leaks as part of the immediate fallout. The Harden trade was no different.
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report published a lengthy article today detailing all that went wrong with Harden and the Nets. Most of his information shines a rather poor light on the former MVP. Here are some of the juicier tidbits, starting with Kevin Durant's blessing to send Harden off:
"KD didn't want to get rid of James," one person familiar with the two superstars said. "But he knew it was over."
"Kevin was like: 'F--k it. James isn't bringing s--t," another figure with knowledge of Brooklyn added. "I don't think that would have happened without Kevin making that decision."
For weeks he had grown weary of Harden's purported commitment to the franchise. When Harden first took to the bench with right hamstring tightness, Durant was among the Brooklyn figures who were skeptical of the injury's severity.
Another section detailing Harden's unwillingness to be a team player:
As winter arrived, Nets personnel started telling rival team contacts of the troubling dynamic between Durant and Harden, venting during social gatherings and pregame activities. Harden's poor conditioning didn't help his slow adjustment to the NBA's new foul changes. Durant and Nash wanted a free-flowing offense, which Mike D'Antoni had helped install last season, but Harden preferred his patented iso ball. Brooklyn coaches noticed Harden would roll his eyes when an after-timeout play was designed for Durant, sources said.
And the superstar's troublesome attendance record by the end of his time in Brooklyn:
When the Nets arrived in Utah for their fourth game of a five-game trip, members of the traveling party were openly discussing their desire to swap Harden for Simmons. Staffers and players had grown frustrated by the special treatment granted to Brooklyn's superstars, sources said.
Harden didn't arrive at the Jazz game until halftime, sources told B/R. When it concluded and Brooklyn continued with its planned itinerary to Denver, Harden flew to Las Vegas, sources said.
It sure sounds familiar, doesn't it? A lot of Harden's actions are ripped straight from the same playbook he used to force his way out of Houston. It would be more worrisome for Philly if they had anybody other than Morey in charge. He knows how Harden ticks and how to keep him happy. Whether that'll be good in the long run for the Sixers is certainly up for debate, but in the now, it couldn't get much better.
This is merely the first of many Harden reports we're going to hear. One does not force his way off a team featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant without consequences.