Remember two weeks ago when James Harden jokingly said that he was going to give Kyrie Irving the COVID-19 shot? Or, should we say that we thought he was joking? Why? Well, according to Bleacher Report, Harden is open to leaving the Brooklyn Nets in favor of the Philadelphia Sixers.
It’s known that Sixers president Daryl Morey made a push to trade for Harden when the guard was still in Houston, but as we know, he landed in Brooklyn.
Harden didn’t sign a contract extension with the Nets ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline, and since then, the rumors that he is going to be part of a sign-and-trade deal with Philadelphia this summer erupted. However, those same rumors have gained more traction over the last few days.
With the trade deadline a little over two weeks away, there’s a small chance that the Sixers will find an acceptable deal for Ben Simmons. Supposedly, the organization prefers to wait until the summer when they have a shot to land a big name like… Harden.
On Tuesday, B/R’s Jake Fischer reported that the likelihood of Harden moving to Philadelphia during the summer is higher than what we originally thought.
Is James Harden going to leave the Brooklyn Nets because of Kyrie Irving?
According to Fischer, “multiple sources” have said that Harden is still all-in on winning a title with Brooklyn this year, but that he’s informed “several confidants” that he’s interested in pursuing opportunities beyond the Nets this summer.
"“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.”"
Also, Harden supposedly hasn’t been pleased with Steve Nash’s rotations:
"“Nets coach Steve Nash’s fluid rotations have also disappointed Harden, sources told B/R. Nash has favored hot-hand closing lineups, rather than a fixed crunch-time unit.”"
After Kevin Durant went down with a sprained MCL, Irving was asked if that had persuaded him to get vaccinated. He made it clear that his stance on the vaccine hadn’t changed, meaning that Harden would be left to lead Brooklyn in games played at Barclays Center.
When Sean Marks cited the reasons why the Nets reversed their previous decision to allow for Irving to return as a part-time player, he mentioned Durant and Harden’s heavy workload.
Harden’s benefitted from Irving’s return to the court but until KD returns, there’s going to be an increased workload on his shoulders, which is what Brooklyn was hoping to stray from.
Morey’s Houston connection to Harden was enough to visualize the lines between the seven-time All-Star and the Sixers but now those lines have gotten clearer.
If Harden opts into his 2022-23 player option during the offseason, he’ll be eligible to sign a four-year, $227.2 million max extension. However, he has the option to go to another team and sign a four-year, $200.1 max million contract.
The Nets are at a real risk to lose Harden this summer. Is Irving going to be motivated to get vaccinated now? Is Nash going to stop experimenting with rotations? What plan is Brooklyn going to put into action to keep Harden?
There are a lot of questions for a situation that has zero answers. The Nets will have to make it through the season first but this summer could end up being a wild ride.