Inside The Fallout Between James Harden, Kevin Durant Before Nets Trade

Brooklyn Nets, James Harden, Kevin Durant, NBA Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

One of the most shocking things to come out of the NBA this season was the deterioration of the Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3. The team traded away a lot of assets to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets last season, creating one of the best offensive trios the league has ever seen.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the team as free agents in 2019. Recovering from a torn Achilles, Durant sat out the entire 2019-20 season but the Nets had their superstars in place. Early in the 2020-21 season, they pulled off the blockbuster deal for Harden.

The Brooklyn Nets quickly became favorites to win the Eastern Conference. How would anyone be able to slow down that trio for an entire series? No one ever had to, as the Nets could not get healthy. 

Durant was the last healthy player standing during the 2021 postseason as Kyrie Irving was sidelined with an ankle injury and James Harden battled a hamstring injury. Harden was able to get on the court, but he was far from his normal self.

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Despite all of the hurdles, Brooklyn went to seven games in their second-round series against the eventual champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. Expectations were high knowing that the Big 3 would be together for an entire offseason, but that playoff series was the beginning of the end for them.

As it turns out, things began to sour before the 2021-22 regular season began. Harden, who had his offseason derailed because of hamstring rehab, got off to a rough start. Some attributed it to that and the rule changes, but it turned out Harden was not in shape at the beginning of the season. It was something that irked Durant.

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Kevin Durant was hoping that Harden would re-commit himself after getting the change of scenery that he desired. It was even more important for Harden to play at a high level with Irving away from the team because he remained unvaccinated, otherwise, Durant was left as a one-man show.

“With Irving’s status already in flux due to his unwillingness to get vaccinated, Durant was astonished in the opening weeks of the season at Harden’s lack of explosiveness and sluggish play, something he attributed in large part to Harden’s being out of shape, as he did the ensuing hamstring issues.”

Unsurprisingly, Harden didn’t take well to that. There never was a resolution, as James Harden began distancing himself more and more despite efforts from people to smooth things over. It eventually reached a boiling point, which was when Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Harden, sources say, found Durant’s slant grating and self-righteous. The two never resolved the conflict, and there was little that teammates, coach Steve Nash or Marks could do to mediate it. With each passing week, Harden became more isolated, with staff and teammates increasingly frustrated by the static. The Nets ultimately excised him from the locker room in a blockbuster trade deadline deal with Philadelphia for Ben Simmons.”

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In the end, the trio of Durant, Irving and Harden played only 16 games together. In those games the Nets rolled, going 13-3. It has left a lot of people asking what if when it comes to the situation.

What if Irving had gotten vaccinated, which was reportedly a point of contention between him and Harden? What if Kevin Durant hadn’t suffered his knee injury, essentially leaving Harden in the same one-man show role he wanted to get out of with the Rockets?

We will never know the answers to those questions, but it will be a topic of discussion for years to come as the Brooklyn Nets are the most recent cautionary tale when it comes to creating super teams in the NBA.

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