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Sources reveal why the Brooklyn Nets teammates resented James Harden

James Harden & Brooklyn Nets

It seems Harden wasn't the most popular guy on the Nets squad

In every significant drama since the Romeo and Juliet days, there has been a foreshadowing moment where everyone should have realized, ‘hold on - this is going to lead to trouble’. With James Harden on his way to his fourth great team, now in Philadelphia, after three combusted failures, today might be that moment. 

According to 76ers insider Yaron Weitzman, James Harden wanted out of Brooklyn partly because he expected everything would be catered to him (especially the offense) the way it was in Houston. 

But Kevin Durant and Steve Nash wouldn’t let him have his way because they wanted to play team basketball and keep the ball moving.

That upset Harden, and he started talking about his teammates and coaches behind their backs, even to people sitting courtside at games. 

It seems far-fetched but does it? After all, he did turn every role player in Houston into a soulless catch and shoot threat. Even Chris Paul became just a pawn on his chessboard. When that wasn’t the case in Brooklyn, he blatantly checked out mentally and physically. We also know that Harden believes he is better than Embiid because James Harden believes he is better than everyone. So I ask again? Is this story that far-fetched?

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It seems two scenarios could play out here. 

Harden and his minions 

Even in the reality that Doc Rivers surrenders control of the offense to Harden, they are not pushing Embiid into a corner or into a lifeless brick wall for Harden to generate space. Instead, they might regress the role of MVP candidate Jo Jo so much they create what they call a backup offense. He would still have plays run for him to ensure defense engagement, but most of his touches would come if Harden can’t generate something immediately. That’s when Embiid would grab it in the post with 12 seconds and either hit the defender with his Hakeem-esk turnaround jumper or Shaq-esk back down slam. 

But there is a very little-spoken downfall of this system. I don’t want to see Tyrese Maxey turn into nothing more than one of Harden’s minions hovering around the three-point line for space.

Maxey is a franchise-altering guard whose floater game is comparable to George Gervins. Not better - just similar - and no, I’m not smoking crack while writing this. In his second season, he is padding in 17 points a game on 47-40-87 shooting splits. This is on a team that ranks fifth in the now superior Eastern Conference. The promising development of his pick and rolls, transitional play, and fast handles will all be stunted if he turns into another Eric Gordon. 

Picks and Dimes

It’s no secret that Harden’s scoring output took a dive in his short Nets career. His potential return as peak scoring god Harden is what hangs over this trade the most when predicting which team came out on top. But the only thing that hasn’t dipped statistically is his playmaking skills, as he still racked up 10.2 dimes a game. 

So like the experiment detailed in the Embiid piece, Harden has never played with an All-Star level pick and roll threat. With Simmons’ clogging ability, the same can be said for Embiid. Both are in ideal situations to partake in the most traditional and assured system in NBA history - the big man/ small man arrangement. The roles are defined, the spaces are allocated, and the plays are predictable but impenetrable. 

Both players will thrive on mismatches - while always keeping the ball moving fast. They will still be one of the slower-paced teams in the league, currently ranking dead last in the league. But with the space that Harden demands on defenses, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, and Niang will find their shots even easier through the flow of the offense. Not through the flow of Harden’s stagnation. If they operate their playbook in this fashion - which Doc Rivers is more likely to do - then we’re looking at championship contenders. 

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