In the midst of James Harden trade rumors swirling around, and reports about the 32-year-old's increased interest in a potential change of scenery, the Brooklyn Nets decided to shut down any discussion about the move leading up to the trade deadline.
Harden denies rumors, Nets shut them down
Following Tuesday's 106-96 loss to the Lakers, Harden, who put up a 33-point triple-double, admitted he was frustrated with how things are going. Injuries, COVID breakouts, and overall inconsistencies surrounding the Nets resulted in an underwhelming performance thus far in the season, leaving the team with a record that's not up to par with their firepower.
But other than that, Harden is happy in Brooklyn. He continued by denying reports that he's looking to test free agency this summer. "That's all it is," he said. "I don't know anything about any reports. If you didn't hear it from me, I don't talk to nobody. I have an agent. If you don't hear it from me, then it's reports, So I'm frustrated because I wanna win and I'm a competitor. It's pretty simple."
If that didn't put an end to James Harden trade rumors, Adrian Wojnarowski's report had to. According to ESPN's Senior NBA Insider, the organization won't listen to trade deadline offers for their superstar player.
Nets owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks are confident Harden's commitment to Brooklyn is long-term, based on the internal belief that the Nets Big Three is unstoppable when on the court together. Once Kevin Durant is back to the lineup -- he's set to return in February -- they'll have a chance to prove that.
Daryl Morey lurking in the shadows
Harden's frustrations seem to be fixable, assuming the team starts winning again -- they've now lost three straight after falling to the Nuggets last night. But even if the Nets find the way to get back on track, the cloud of uncertainty will continue to loom over the biggest superteam experiment in recent NBA history.
Despite his MVP-worthy performance, KD is once again out. Given his injury history, it's impossible to dismiss the risk of Durant not being healthy come the postseason. Kyrie Irving's vaccination status still only allows him to be a part-time contributor for the team, and it's reasonable to assume it'll stay that way for the foreseeable future. Even Harden, who, despite the slow start, is looking more and more like his old self, is again dealing with a hamstring injury.
The Nets' Big Three has the potential to be great. But their lack of availability put a cap on their postseason run last year, and it might happen again this season. Harden will obviously be there to see how things play out, but once he hits free agency this summer, leaving the Nets might be a legitimate option regardless of the reports he denied today.
Jake Fischer wrote about "Harden's apparent openness to joining Joel Embiid and reuniting with Philadelphia president Daryl Morey." The Beard not addressing that part of the article was expected, but that doesn't decrease the probability of such a scenario, assuming the Nets don't go all the way once again.
Morey is ready to hold out on trading Ben Simmons in case Harden becomes open to a move this summer. If the situation gets that far, the only way to get the former MVP will be with a sign-and-trade. Given the ongoing instabilities in Brooklyn, nothing is off the table.