If you thought that the James Harden drama ended when the trade became official on Thursday night, you were wrong. Sean Marks agreed to deal Harden to Philadelphia after the guard finally admitted that he no longer wanted to play for the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn’s Big Three transformed from a dream to a nightmare over the course of 13 months. Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving only played in 16 games together and held a 13-3 record.
The Nets’ championship built around that core will no longer happen but up until a few days ago, that wasn’t the course of action that Brooklyn wanted to take.
On Friday afternoon, Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski revealed a glimpse into what Harden’s final days with the Nets looked like.
James Harden’s actions spoke louder than his words before Brooklyn Nets trade.
Remember when Harden didn’t sign a contract extension with Brooklyn before the Oct. 18 deadline?
Despite that, Harden said:
"“I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have,” Harden said Tuesday. “So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship.”"
Although he said that he wasn’t planning on leaving the Nets, he didn’t specify what team he’d try to win his first championship with. As we all know, that team is now the Sixers.
But the idea of leaving Brooklyn was something that entered Harden’s head long before the Feb. 10 deadline, regardless of what he said to Marks or Joe Tsai.
According to Shelburne and Wojnarowski (subscription required):
"“He kept telling Tsai and Marks he wanted to stay long term, but simultaneously started canvassing player agents for advice on an eventual exit strategy to Philadelphia.”"
Harden told Marks and Tsai that if there was a problem, they’d hear from him directly.
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer was onto something when he released a piece on Jan. 25 outlining the reasons why Harden was open to leaving the Nets during the offseason. When Harden was asked about Fischer’s report, he said to not believe reports unless they came directly from him.
In what was supposed to be his first full season in Brooklyn, Harden’s word failed. It wasn’t until the deadline was looming on the horizon that the 10-time All-Star reportedly opened up to Marks and Tsai via FaceTime and told them that he wanted to reunite with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia.
According to ESPN, it was clear that Harden had given up on the Nets. On the team’s most recent West Coast road trip, he enjoyed himself late into the night, which likely was the underlying cause in his four point, six turnover performance against the Kings on Feb. 2 in his final game with Brooklyn.
It was reported that the 37-year-old wouldn’t travel with the Nets to Washington for their game on Thursday night because he would supposedly be in Brooklyn rehabbing his hamstring injury. However, he traveled back to Houston to wait out the deadline instead.
Marks knew that he would have to work his magic to agree to a deal with Morey and that’s exactly what he did. Although Brooklyn’s former Big Three will be one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ of all time, Marks did the right thing in trading Harden.
Harden didn’t want to formally request a trade for the second-consecutive year due to the “public backlash” that he’d receive but the course of action that he took instead was arguably far worse.
In the end, Harden got his wish and the trade ended up being a blessing in disguise for the Nets, who originally wanted to do what they could to win a championship with the guard this year. It’s now time to move on and move forward with a new-look roster.