Having the All-Star Draft right after the trade deadline is a genius move, and last night demonstrated why. After Kevin Durant gave a salty like to a Woj post saying Harden wanted out of Brooklyn but was afraid of the public backlash, KD went a bit further (with the help of LeBron James).
Last guy picked
If you meet someone who tells you they didn't like gym class, the pinnacle of their anxiety was the moment two people selected their teams. Being picked last was a horrible feeling they had to go through, knowing they weren't wanted. Now, James Harden can relate to that feeling.
In the last round, KD was up to make his pick, and there were only two guys left on the board. The universally mocked Rudy Gobert, and James Harden. LeBron couldn't keep a straight face, and Charles Barkley made sure everyone had a good time.
Charles steals the show, but LeBron is my sneaky pick for the funniest guy last night. Chuck and Shaq were holding back, and then LeBron jumped in with “Can he play, is he healthy?” knowing what the response would be. Tremendous vision and comedy IQ to set up Charles with the ”He got traded, he's healthy now. He's rubbing some icy hot on that thing, he's playing the next game!”
Earnie gave us another great moment when he offered LeBron and KD to make a post-draft trade if they wanted to. You gotta appreciate the irony of LeBron making fun of someone else for orchestrating trades.
So there they were two sensitive guys at the end of the line, waiting to get picked. We know Rudy Gobert cares a lot about his image and reputation - the man cried when he didn't make the All-Star. And it's not like we didn't know Harden is sensitive, too; most of the players from this generation are.
Harden didn't want to deal with the PR hit of asking out twice in less than a year. Even if Woj didn't report on his anxiety, we'd still talk about it. Just another proof a lot of today's superstars live in echo chambers of people telling them what they want to hear, unprepared to take some criticism without feeling attacked.
After he forced the Chris Paul trade, but then didn't like that Paul expected him to play defense and move without the ball on offense, Harden forced the Westbrook trade. When that didn't work out, and all their assets were depleted, Harden quit on the Rockets. He disregarded league COVID protocols, showed out of shape, and mysteriously got injured to force a trade. The Rockets told him they have a trade with the Nets and 76ers on the table, and Harden picked the Nets.
Not a year later, after willingly joining KD and Kyrie, it was harder than he thought, and yet again, for the team to win, Harden would have to play defense and run without the ball on offense. But that's not what he signed up for - the idea was they could win a title with Harden doing only what he wanted to do. Kyrie's vaccination episode wasn't totally predictable, but was anyone surprised?
Yet another member of the player empowerment elite who'd like to have all the power and none of the responsibility. Let's see what happens when Doc Rivers explains to him they're not playing a switch everything defense with Embiid on the floor. "What do you mean, fighting through screens?"