James Harden Trade Rumors: It’s Abundantly Clear Harden Is Tanking His Way Out of Brooklyn the Same Way He Shamelessly Abandoned the Houston Rockets

Trade rumors surrounding the Brooklyn Nets James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons have ramped up quickly over the last 12 or so hours.

The swap of the two superstars went from a fun idea to a possible rumor and now to a full-fledged, buckle-your-seatbelts, here-we-go conceivable trade.

But The Beard has lowkey been laying the breadcrumbs for this deal over the last month. It’s becoming abundantly clear he would prefer to play in Philly with former pal Daryl Morey rather than with the Nets.

We’ve seen this movie before. Harden did everything he could to try and get away from the Houston Rockets franchise, and now we’re getting the sequel as he attempts to tank his way out of Brooklyn.

A James Harden trade from the Nets to the Sixers is quickly picking up steam

It's becoming clear James Harden is forcing the Brooklyn Nets to trade him the same way he did the Houston Rockets.
James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets walks toward the bench during a time out in the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. | Elsa/Getty Images

Morey wanted Harden to join him in Philadephia before the former MVP landed in Brooklyn. He used Simmons as the bait, but Houston didn’t bite. In hindsight, that became the first step in the entire Ben Simmons Saga.

In the past few weeks, it’s become obvious Morey still covets his former star and would be willing to wait until the summer to find a deal. But late on Feb. 4, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the much-anticipated Harden-Simmons swap could come much earlier — before the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

The impetus for the sudden change of direction is apparently the Nets’ willingness to discuss the trade now rather than later.

Shams wrote that there’s “no urgency” for Brooklyn to find a deal, but with the Sixers still hoarding assets like Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, and Matisse Thybulle, the Nets could be persuaded into making a deal should the right one present itself.

And there’s likely another reason — or reasons — that Brooklyn has pulled at least a 120, if not a 180.

Harden is going out of his way to force the Brooklyn Nets to trade him

By the time it was all said and done, and the three-time scoring champion had left Houston for Brooklyn, it was clear Harden had done everything in his power to force the Rockets to give in. (Realistically, it was clear long before that).

A Yahoo!Sports story ran on Feb. 4 after it was announced the Philly-Brooklyn swap could now be a legitimate possibility. On March 3, 2021, ESPN ran a story detailing the months leading to Harden’s departure from Houston.

The similarities are damning for the 32-year-old.

  • Feb. 2, 2022: Brooklyn loses to the Sacramento Kings. Harden scores four points, has six turnovers, and finishes with a minus-21. After the game, he says, in part via ESPN: “We’re just trying to figure out what works best, what guys fit, what guys don’t. Hopefully after the break we can get our whole roster and start making strides in the right direction.”
  • Summer 2020: Harden on the future of his Houston team after being eliminated from the playoffs: “I feel like we’re a piece away. We’ve just got to keep trying to figure it out, keep trying to grow and put the right pieces around me and Russ to get to where we want to go.”

On Jan 25, 2022, Bleacher Report published a story detailing The Beard’s “increased interest in testing the open market this summer.” The piece went on to mention how Harden has voiced his frustrations on Kyrie Irving’s part-time playing status and how Kevin Durant’s injury has forced more of the burden onto his own shoulders.

It also detailed how the former Oklahoma City star isn’t a fan of Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash’s current rotations. The story then went even further, touching on how sources have said Harden hasn’t enjoyed living in Brooklyn.

Shooting back to the ESPN piece about the Houston debacle, once Morey left — citing concerns about being able to “keep James happy” — and Russell Westbrook was traded to Washington for John Wall, Harden went AWOL.

He missed the start of training camp to attend Lil Baby’s birthday party (posting pictures of it on Instagram), then went to Vegas. He ended up missing all of camp, then showed up overweight, and made a mockery of the first few weeks of the season before being dealt to Brooklyn, all the while leaking rumors of his unhappiness.

He played the first eight games of 2020-21 with the Rockets while visibly out of shape and with little effort. The lowlight was a lazy pass that went straight into the scorer’s table with Harden blaming his teammate for not being available.

Fast forward again to the present. The Nets have lost seven straight games. Harden missed two of those games with a right-hand strain (he’s left-handed) and missed the team’s most recent loss to Utah with a hamstring issue.

When he actually has played during that stretch, Harden has been a minus-14, minus-12, minus-11, and had his minus-21 Kings game, respectively. He’s scored 18 points per game on 34.3% shooting and 25.0% shooting from three and has averaged 5.5 turnovers.

Piecing everything together, it’s not hard to see the comparisons between Harden’s last few weeks and the end of his time in Houston.

It’s time to get off the train before it crashes

Things got worse for the Rockets before they got better. And in the end, their franchise superstar got what he wanted anyway.

Do the Nets want to sit in the theater and watch this continue to play out? Do they see an alternate ending to Harden Tank 2? Because that isn’t coming. James is clearly pulling out all the same tired tropes that made the original Harden Tank successful.

Brooklyn shelled out for the whole experience — the Nets got the large popcorn, the large soda, the hot dog, the soft pretzel bites, and the Dots — but their movie isn’t ending any differently than Houston’s. The Brooklyn Nets need to make the trade now and leave the theater early.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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