A staged performance after playing the Lakers, James Harden was effective. By ripping off the scab, by slashing and burning every square inch of solidarity he built the past nine years, Harden and the Rockets divorced. Finally, Harden is where he always wanted to be, albeit $13 million poorer because of NY taxes. Time will tell what Harden and KD can do as a unit. It has been reported that Harden told Nets GM Sean Marks after the trade “I want to win.”
Yes, James Harden wants to win. He wants to win like every NBA player wants to win. He wants to win like every NBA veteran wants to win. He wants to win like every player who has a playoff winning percentage of 40% wants to win. He wants to win like every player who has a regular-season offensive rating of 118 wants to win. He wants to win like every player who has run three superstars (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook) and one coach (Kevin McHale) out of town wants to win. He wants to win like every iso player wants to win. Wanting to win isn’t what is important in the James Harden world.
Does he have the capacity to win? Is it in him?
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In high school, Harden led Artesia to the California state title in back-to-back years. At Arizona State, he played in the tournament once and lost in the second round. In the NBA, he made it to the NBA Finals once, lost in the Conference Finals three times, lost in the semi-finals three times and lost in the first round four times. In Houston, Harden rarely showed the ability to lead; he haphazardly climbed the playoff mountain.
Harden’s game is overanalyzed to nauseating proportions and is considered to be the primary inhibitor to his playoff success. Iso games don’t translate to the playoffs and although you can name a few iso players who excelled in the postseason, the Kobes and Jordans of the world, the point is can you elevate teammates?
A boon for the Nets is that Harden is one of the more durable players in the NBA. He has played the most games out of anyone in his 2009 draft class
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Harden has never had to sacrifice the past nine seasons, no one took his toys away. If his game or his personality didn’t mesh, he didn’t compromise. Instead, he got rid of whoever was making him nauseous. Houston enabled the worst of Harden so he never had to be accountable. Daryl Morey was his cornerman, always stopping the criticism and blame bleeding. While Brooklyn appears to be that same kind of organization considering how they are treating Kyrie Irving with kid gloves, Steve Nash has demonstrated straight talk.
No matter how you dice it, Harden is no longer the most important thing in town. It’s all about Kevin Durant. Writer Tom Wolfe said you can’t go home again but that is exactly what Harden has done. He has returned to where he used to be and where his game was always going to take him, that is if he wants to win the way he says he does.
According to Larry Brown Sports, Kyrie is “furious” with the Nets for several reasons. First, he wasn’t consulted about the Steve Nash hire who he didn’t want as a coach. Second, Kyrie’s relationship with Durant is frosty, perhaps because Durant and Harden cooked up this scheme of them playing together and left Kyrie in the dark. Maybe no one ever told Kyrie that it rains on the just and unjust.
In a reversal of fortune, Kyrie’s leverage for being petulant has shrunk. With Harden in town, he won’t be spoiled, placated, entitled, nor can he cash in his chips when the on-again, off-again friend with benefits Nets arrangement falls apart. He’ll just be traded.
These things happen to Kyrie. His second contract was a max free-agent deal with Cleveland. He could have forced his way out but he wanted to compete with what Steph Curry was doing on a nightly basis, he wanted the ESPN highlight glory. Then LeBron came to town and ruined Kyrie’s dreams. He was forced into a subordinate role, or at the very least a little brother denouement. Years later, he signs with Brooklyn and is playing with Durant except Kyrie isn’t enough for KD, he wants his best friend James Harden.
Kyrie is always getting out-maneuvered. But he has himself to blame, in part. If Kyrie was direct, the Nets would be in a better place. If Kyrie said, like others boldly said, Steve Nash jumped the line ahead of black candidates like Sam Cassell, Jarron Collins, and Adrian Griffin. If he said he was disrespected by not being given a heads up regarding Nash and Harden. If he said that in this tumultuous season of black lives not mattering, black coaches don’t matter either, a lot of his aggravation would have been avoided. But because he is passive-aggressive, he’s not going to say what he feels, instead leaning into some garbage about not needing a head coach.
The contrast between Irving and Harden can’t be more striking. While Kyrie is an ally for black coaches, James Harden is an ally for James Harden. He sabotaged James Silas to get what he wanted. He let a career dangle in the wind when black coaches have few opportunities. He threw his black teammates under the bus and went on about getting his better life.
As for basketball. Both are moody and selfish but in different ways. Kyrie is not going to ask permission and his sacrifices will be miniscule. He’ll size up the landscape pretty quickly. That Harden is again matched up with coach Mike D’Antoni who will draw up plays and sets for the best of Harden except when the ball is in Irving’s hands. Then Irving is going to break something off for himself.
Look at the shot attempts on the Nets right now. Kyrie leads the way with 20.1 shots and Durant has 18.0 shots. Kyrie will continue to do Kyrie. He knows no other way. After his LeBron fiasco, Kyrie vowed to never be in that situation again. Harden won’t be offered the opportunity to diminish Kyrie Irving even if the partnership of Harden and Durant puts Irving on the outside. You can’t Chris Bosh Kyrie.
Despite being sensitive, Irving is attracted to the anti-hero archetype. He can withstand being despised, having everyone out to get him. He learned a theological lesson when playing with LeBron James: there can only be one Jesus on a team. The rest are disciples, flunky’s, or Judas.
Kyrie will get his own because that is how he has been taught. And that is doomsday for the Brooklyn Nets, a mistake they should have seen coming.