With James Harden now officially a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, all the tea is being spilled about his dissolution with the Brooklyn Nets. Our Dave Early and Steve Lipman covered a lot of the rumors coming out yesterday in their round-up, and another in-depth report dropped today from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. The main crux of the report details how involved Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn’s organizational decision-making.
“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.”
With Brooklyn and Philadelphia inextricably linked over the past couple months, though, the report also contains interesting Sixers-related nuggets. For example, it provides the most clear link I’ve seen to Joel Embiid’s MVP push contributing to Harden’s wandering eye.
“Come December, word started to percolate around the NBA about a mounting disconnect between Harden and Durant, which was buoyed by Irving’s absence. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid was reclaiming his MVP-caliber dominance from a season ago.
Sixers figures spoke of how Embiid fully embraced becoming Philadelphia’s lifeblood with Simmons out of the picture. Other league observers posited Embiid was auditioning for his next co-star. Harden saw another talent hungering for his first ring, according to several people close to him. Irving, on the other hand, was willing to miss half of Brooklyn’s playoff games.
“Kyrie not being held accountable and Kyrie being allowed to do whatever he wants. James, being his age, knows he doesn’t have any time to waste to get his first championship,” one source close to Harden told B/R.”
It definitely speaks to the stars attract other stars model in the league. Despite the Harden-Morey connection, if Embiid hadn’t taken yet another impressive leap this season, I doubt this deal goes down.
The vast majority of Sixers fans are rightfully thrilled about Harden’s arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. However, the report also raises concerns for a Sixers franchise seemingly destined to offer Harden well over $200 million over the course of the next half-decade.
“Durant and Nash wanted a free-flowing offense, which Mike D’Antoni had helped install last season, but Harden preferred his patented iso ball. Brooklyn coaches noticed Harden would roll his eyes when an after-timeout play was designed for Durant, sources said.”
Is Harden going to take umbrage with plays being drawn up for Joel Embiid with the game on the line? It’s not like Durant isn’t a similarly incredible player where Harden shouldn’t have taken offense then.
Additionally, the report details numerous instances of Harden going off on his own in the middle of road trips.
“After posting an emphatic 37-point triple-double on 13-of-24 shooting at the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 21, Harden left the team for Houston and a night of clubbing, B/R has learned. He rejoined the traveling party in Minnesota for a Jan. 23 game against the Timberwolves and scored just 13 points on 13 attempts.”
“Harden didn’t arrive at the Jazz game until halftime, sources told B/R. When it concluded and Brooklyn continued with its planned itinerary to Denver, Harden flew to Las Vegas, sources said.
When asked to confirm the account, one person close to Harden chuckled before responding, “That sure sounds like James, doesn’t it?”
The short flight from Salt Lake City has made for frequent Vegas getaways for Harden dating back to his Rockets tenure, sources said. He would also stay behind following trips to Los Angeles and meet the team at its next destination. Daryl Morey afforded Russell Westbrook the same frequent flight privileges as Harden. And the Sunday before this year’s trade deadline, Harden returned from Vegas to Denver but showed up late for the Nuggets game as well.”
I realize certain players get star treatment, but this is pretty far removed from the team-oriented ubuntu mentality Doc Rivers championed back in his days with Boston. If similar things transpire with the Sixers, which seems likely given that Morey permitted it back during their team in Houston, could it upset team chemistry and create grievances in the locker room? It’s a fair concern.
Ultimately, though, winning provides a universal balm in team situations. With Embiid an MVP frontrunner and Harden still performing at an All-Star level, it’s likely this partnership will lead to success on the court and render these other issues inconsequential.