Just over a year ago, James Harden was applying immense pressure on the Rockets to trade him, making it known that his preference was to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. Ultimately, a deal was made that sent the former MVP to the Nets, beginning a full-scale teardown in Houston and, somewhat unwittingly, sparking the rise of the Cleveland Cavaliers for this season.
The expectation was that Brooklyn would fork over big money to extend their new star triumverate this past summer, but when the season arrived, only Kevin Durant had inked an extension. Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine, thus making him ineligible to play home games, pulled his extension off the table and puts his future in Brooklyn in question. As for Harden, he opted against signing an extension, choosing instead to pick up his large player option for this season and setting himself up for a four-year deal this summer.
At the time, Harden insisted there was “nothing to worry about” for Brooklyn, and that he had no plans to leave the organization. Now, three months later, there are rumblings that Harden is no longer favored to return to the Nets this summer, as rumors swirl about a potential reunion with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Harden has expressed frustrations about his situation in Brooklyn, both in his lack of comfort in living there and the situation he finds himself in with Kyrie not playing home games, and wants to look into “other opportunities outside Brooklyn” when free agency arrives.
Harden remains invested in competing for the title in Brooklyn this season, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. But Harden has recently informed several confidants—including former teammates and coaches—of his interest in exploring other opportunities outside of Brooklyn this summer, league sources told B/R.
Harden has been vocal to Nets figures and close contacts alike about his frustrations regarding Kyrie Irving’s part-time playing status. A recent injury to Kevin Durant has exacerbated the issue, leaving Harden to shoulder the majority of the offensive burden during Brooklyn home games.
His new city could also be an issue. According to multiple sources, Harden has not enjoyed living in Brooklyn, compared to his days as a central Houston magnate. Outside of the change in climate, the chasm between state taxes in New York versus Texas is quite obvious as well.
Fischer makes clear that there has not been a trade request from Harden, but the window for the Nets to win a championship with their Big 3 very well could be down to this season and this season only. Coupled with the recent reports that the Sixers would prefer to wait to deal Ben Simmons until this summer, when they could pursue someone like Harden in a sign-and-trade, and there is an awful lot of smoke out there about Harden rejoining a Morey operation.
Still, there’s a lot of time for things to change, both on the Simmons front in Philly (although something drastic would seemingly have to happen to see him moved in February at this point) and with Harden in Brooklyn. Frustrations in the middle of the season are one thing, but should the Nets win a championship, it wouldn’t be hard to see Harden change his tune about his feelings about Brooklyn and look to return to the Nets.