After Monday night’s victory over the Kings, Bruce Brown praised the Nets’ chemistry and said, “Everybody likes everybody.”
A new report sheds light on why that may not have been the case prior to the James Harden trade.
The Nets — led by Kevin Durant — had issues with Harden’s effort level, conditioning, accountability and attitude, and Harden grew frustrated by the team’s playing style and Kyrie Irving’s refusal to be vaccinated, according to Bleacher Report.
It all culminated when Harden requested the trade to the 76ers, allowing his mouth to confirm what his actions had signaled. Harden, with a hurting hamstring, had been in and out of the team’s orbit leading up to the trade deadline and showed up late for their Feb. 8 game against the Celtics. The Beard then left Brooklyn for Houston, and — according to the report — had another night of clubbing while demonstrating he had no plans to invest more of himself in the Nets.
“Kevin was like: ‘F–k it. James isn’t bringing s–t,” a source told Bleacher Report, which reported Durant signed off on the deal because he felt there was no healing the relationship between player and team.
Another source referred to the Durant-Harden chill as a “cold war” that “made everyone miserable.”
The disconnect reportedly began as early as training camp, when Durant was disappointed by Harden’s conditioning. The two then lost a potential buffer and a third superstar in Irving, whose vaccine refusal kept him away from the team until December (and now allows him only to play games away from Barclays Center).
There were natural basketball disagreements, with Harden preferring the isolation style that he thrived in with the Rockets and Durant (and the Nets) desiring more ball movement. According to the report, Brooklyn coaches witnessed Harden roll his eyes when plays following timeouts were designed for Durant.
From Harden’s vantage point, there were frustrations with both Irving and the team’s enabling of Irving. During one news conference, Harden (jokingly?) offered to jab the point guard himself.
“Kyrie not being held accountable and Kyrie being allowed to do whatever he wants,” a source close to Harden told Bleacher Report. “James, being his age, knows he doesn’t have any time to waste to get his first championship.”
After Durant sprained his MCL on Jan. 15, Harden faced the same situation as he had in Houston: a mostly one-man show tasked with carrying his team every night without much help. And like in Houston, he tried to find a way out — and enjoyed the superstar privileges in doing so.
According to the report, Harden left the team after a Jan. 21 win in San Antonio so he could party in Houston. He met up with the Nets two days later in Minnesota, where he struggled in a loss.
In late January, Harden began complaining of a hamstring injury that Durant reportedly has had suspicions about (although an MRI showed inflammation, according to the report).
Harden was scratched from a few games. When he was on the court, the effort was minimal, and never more so than his final game with Brooklyn — Feb. 2 in Sacramento, after which video went viral showing his lackadaisical defense.
According to the report, members of the Nets’ traveling party were openly discussing a Harden-for-Ben Simmons deal upon reaching Utah for their next game. Harden didn’t show up for the matchup until halftime.
As the Nets then flew to Denver for their next game, Harden flew to Las Vegas.
The blockbuster with the Sixers was completed Thursday, and several members of the Nets have said they feel happier after the deadline. There were loud celebrations coming from their locker room Monday in their first victory without Harden.