In the aftermath of the blockbuster trade that sent Nets point guard James Harden to Philadelphia, those close to Kevin Durant reveal his trade involvement.
In one season, the Nets Super Three fell apart like dominos. The team camaraderie that initially brought Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving dissolved during the 2021 season, and by the trade deadline, only Durant is the one who’s been on the roster all year. The Kyrie Irving vaccine debacle has strained the Nets to accommodate him after a two-month absence, while Harden is now a Philadelphia 76er due to a blockbuster trade for Ben Simmons.
According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Harden to Philly was by design. The monumental move couldn’t have happened without Durant’s blessing.
“KD didn’t want to get rid of James,” one person familiar with the two superstars said. “But he knew it was over.”
“Kevin was like: ‘F–k it. James isn’t bringing s–t,” a different inside source revealed. “I don’t think that would have happened without Kevin making that decision.”
Fischer wrote that Durant had “grown weary of Harden’s purported commitment to the franchise”, saying that he was one of the Brooklyn figures skeptical of the severity of Harden’s right hamstring injury.
Harden’s behavior, combined with Brooklyn’s recent spate of losses, “created an untenable situation.” On Thursday morning, Durant reportedly called Nets general manager Sean Marks.
“Kevin’s the one that pulled the trigger with this,” another source with knowledge of the situation said. “Kevin’s the one that said, ‘Do this deal.’ There was growing concern that this entire season would be lost and then they’d lose James for nothing.”
Kevin Durant a key player in moving James Harden to Philadelphia
It’s an open secret that Durant is heavily involved in key decisions for the organization, building off his prior relationships with Steve Nash and Kyrie Irving to lobby for them on the team. Durant is the reason Irving returned to the roster for away games, but he’s also the reason Harden is now out of New York.
Harden appeared less committed to the team than Durant hoped when he initially wanted Harden to join the Nets. Apparently, Durant noticed that Harden had done a poor job of conditioning in the offseason, which became evident in early practices. His commitment to hard play was being questioned throughout the season, and with Irving out of the lineup, it strained the pressure heaped onto Durant and Harden.
“Kevin and James had a cold war going for the last several months that made everyone miserable,” one person with knowledge of the situation said.
Harden saw how well Joel Embiid was doing without Simmons, and he wanted his first ring more than his prior commitment to the Nets.
Essentially, sources indicate that Harden began to do what he did in Houston: distance himself from his current team so he can force a trade to his preferred destination. This time, Kevin Durant let him have it — and he let LeBron James have Harden, too.