The much-anticipated James Harden trade that landed the superstar with former pal Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers finally crossed the finish line just a few hours before the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 10. Harden had gone full tank mode on the Brooklyn Nets, desperately doing anything he could to force his way out.
He came under some scrutiny (ok, maybe a lot of it) for the way he handled his exit, and the always-outspoken Charles Barkley, for one, was not a fan.
Barkley used his platform on The NBA on TNT’s All-Star 2022 Draft Show to say what most of us are thinking in calling out Harden for his infantile antics and abandoning yet another franchise.
James Harden got what he wanted, a trade to the 76ers
Harden got his wish, landing in Philly to play alongside Joel Embiid. Or his wish could have been just getting out of Brooklyn.
Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks went back to the Nets — a significant haul, especially considering the Sixers were stuck with a non-cooperative Simmons anyway.
The Beard now forms one of the best one-two punches in the NBA with Embiid. Philadelphia also still has Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle alongside them to provide additional playmaking and scoring (Maxey) and All-NBA caliber defense (Thybulle).
It took about a week of intense posturing from Harden, and to some extent Morey, to get the trade done. Realistically it went back further, but things reached a boiling point in the days leading up to the deadline.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Harden was “screaming” to get out of Brooklyn, and the former MVP conveniently came down with a pair of injuries that kept him sidelined in his final few games with the franchise. Even when he did play, he threw out embarrassing clunkers like a four-point, six-turnover, “I give up” performance against the lowly Sacramento Kings.
It all added up to the Nets essentially being forced to say, “Fine, whatever, get out of here so we don’t have to deal with this.”
Like a lot of us watching as fans from the outside, Barkey apparently did not take kindly to Harden’s behavior over the past week-plus.
Barkley took a shot at Harden for his antics that forced the Nets’ hand
Barkley was part of The NBA on TNT crew that hosted All-Star Game captains LeBron James and, in a perfect moment of hilarity, Kevin Durant. LBJ and KD went back and forth, selecting players for their respective teams.
The last two picks came down to Utah’s Rudy Gobert and — in another moment of hilarity — Harden. Durant, unsurprisingly but entertainingly, selected Gobert and left his former teammate for LeBron.
That kicked off an exchange between James and Barkley while KD tried to keep a straight face and remain silent:
“He hasn’t played, is he healthy?” LeBron asked the group as a whole (he could have been lowkey addressing Durant).
The TNT crew asked who LeBron was talking about, and he responded, “James, he hasn’t played, like what happens if he doesn’t play (in the All-Star Game)?”
Chuck wasn’t about to let that moment pass, and he spoke for (almost) all of us when he immediately chimed in:
He got traded, he’s healthy now. … He rubbin’ some Icy-Hot on that thing, he’s playin’ the next game.Charles Barkley on James Harden’s injury status now that he got his wish of being traded to Philly
Barkley even finally got a smile, a laugh, and an “Oh my gosh, man,” out of Durant, who hadn’t reacted at all or even addressed Harden by name when the subject had come up previously.
It’s now up to The Beard and Philly to prove that this was the right move
The James Harden trade happened. Whatever it took for the deal to get done is irrelevant at this point. He and Morey got what they wanted.
Now it’s up to the former Houston Rockets’ pair to prove all the posturing and whining served a purpose. There’s no second option — the Sixers are all-in on a championship this year.
Harden has to show he’s engaged, can play alongside Embiid, and is ready to sacrifice to win his first title. All of those things were present but eventually disappeared in Brooklyn after the immediate glow of the Big Three’s arrival wore off.
The 32-year-old superstar hasn’t been able to stick with any other influential teammate in his career. After being dealt out of Oklahoma City, Harden has played with Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Durant (again), Dwight Howard, and Kyrie Irving. He hasn’t been able to make any of those pairings work.
It’s now incumbent upon him to make this one work. If his reputation weren’t tarnished enough already after tanking his way out of a second team in barely a calendar year, another stunt like this would surely cement him as a quitter.
Barkley was right to call him out. Now we’ll see if Harden can make this one count.