It’s only Wednesday and already it’s been a week for Harden.
On Sunday, he struggled offensively in a loss at Minnesota. Monday brought the release of a report from Bleacher Report that Harden is unhappy as a Net for many reasons, from Kyrie Irving’s part-time status, to Steve Nash’s rotations (or lack thereof) to New York taxes, Harden shot the report down. But he didn’t hide his frustrations.
“I don’t know about any reports,” Harden said. “Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy, there’s a lot of inconsistencies for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it’s frustrating. I think everyone in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is, and we should be on the way up. That’s all it is. I don’t know anything about any reports. If you didn’t hear it from me, I don’t talk to nobody. I have an agent. If you don’t hear it from me, then it’s reports, So I’m frustrated because I wanna win and I’m a competitor. It’s pretty simple.”
The Lakers put Harden’s frustrations on full display. With Kevin Durant sidelined with an MCL sprain and Irving once again ineligible for a home game, it was up to Harden to lead the Nets against LeBron James and the Lakers. Los Angeles had Anthony Davis back in the lineup after he missed 17 games due to an MCL sprain, and Brooklyn got Nic Claxton back for the first time in two weeks after he missed time due to hamstring tightness. He hardly got any support.
Harden scored a game-high 33 points, 16 of which came in the first quarter, on 11-for-24 shooting. But Harden was the lone Net to score in double figures for most of the game, until DeAndre’ Bembry (12 points) and Patty Mills (15 points) joined him. He logged a game-high 38 minutes, too. Meanwhile, James matched Harden’s 33 points, and Russell Westbrook added 15 and Malik Monk had 22 off the bench. The Lakers roasted the Nets in transition, scoring 27 fast-break points to Brooklyn’s nine.
When Harden came to Brooklyn to form the NBA’s latest super team, he probably wasn’t expecting to start games alongside Mills, Bembry and rookies Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards in a regular-season game against another playoff team. He probably wasn’t expecting to close games with Bembry, Mills, James Johnson and Claxton. But that’s where he found himself Tuesday because of COVID-19 and Brooklyn’s current injuries. Durant isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break, and the timing of Joe Harris’ return from ankle surgery remains uncertain.
And Irving isn’t getting vaccinated because Harden is unhappy with the inconsistency of the rotations night in and night out. So Harden needs to buckle in for the rest of a long regular season. Now when Durant is back and the Nets are in the playoffs, Harden’s moral should change for the better.
But if the star guard doesn’t find happiness by years end, Brooklyn could be in his rear view mirror as he escapes this uncertain situation in hopes for a stable one elsewhere.
Irving could be right behind him in search of a home where he can play without the vaccine mandate.
Things could become very bleak for the Nets franchise and KD who thought championships were on the horizon. But for Durant there is no escaping the situation.
He is locked in to Brooklyn for the next 5 years. He probably signed that extension with good faith that his guys would follow his foot steps but with the way this season is going, it won’t be likely both return.
I’m not even sure a championship curers all the ill feelings that are in the air at Barclays at the moment.
But for now we relax and pick this conversation up after the playoffs.