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ESSAY: The Brooklyn Nets, James Harden, and Bad Breakups

Breakups always hurt. You and your partner realize that despite your best efforts, it no longer works. You try to think back to the good times and hope it can help turn things around, but you’ve gone too far and the other person is gone. And once you realize there’s nothing more you can do, you have to let go.

For the Brooklyn Nets and James Harden, that moment came on February 10. After a month of behind-the-scenes dealings, mounting frustration, injuries and bad play, Harden got the breakup he wanted and moved in with the Philadelphia 76ers. Looking back, there were signs that Harden wasn’t fully engaged and was looking to find the exit hatch.

In recent reports, we got the idea that Harden’s eyes were on Philly all along. We’ve learned he’s been focusing on free agency testing and angling to reconnect with longtime running mate Daryl Morey and pals Michael Rubin (co-owner of Sixers) and Tad Brown (CEO of Sixers ). With Morey, Harden went from a fine player to an offensive machine that rightfully earned a spot in the NBA. Top 75 List of all-time players.

On the pitch, you start to look back and notice something was wrong. There were so many games where Harden wasn’t as aggressive and explosive as we used to see him. He was driving less to the edge, had his worst efficiency on shots from within a yard since his rookie season in 2009-10, turned the ball over at the highest rate of his career and spent so much time and energy on s dealing with referees. for the lack of foul calls he was getting, he let them get carried away from his game. After a game against the Minnesota Wolves in which he went no shot in the fourth quarter of a game that kicked off the team’s current losing streak, Harden said of that shotless quarter:

“It was just me just sort of passive and not really attacking like I have to attack consistently. put that on me in that I can’t consistently get to the basket like I need to.

Two days later, everything exploded when reports detailed Harden’s frustration with Steve Nash and the coaching staff, Kyrie Irving and his part-time status thanks to his refusal to get vaccinated and the COVID-19 mandate of the city, etc. He denied reporting it publicly, but something was happening and things were bubbling under the surface. You couldn’t ignore the smoke.

The visual of seeing a Hall of Fame point guard pissed off at the team and forcing his way out of town was an unfortunate reminder of a past relationship for Nets fans.

In 2008, Jason Kidd was fed up with the management of the New Jersey Nets. The rest of the Eastern Conference had passed his team in an instant, and with the team off to a bad start, Kidd missed a game against the New York Knicks with a “migraine”. No one bought it and Kidd got his wish to return to fighting and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on February 19, 2008. It marked a disappointing end to a wonderful run as a player in Jersey for Kidd and it took a long time before he could mend his relationship with the team and the fan base. There was another bad breakup with a star guard, but the Deron Williams Nets story was complicated on its own.

Harden had his own “migraine game,” but stepped it up a few notches. He missed the ABC game of the week against the Golden State Warriors with a strained hand, played a mediocre game (by his standards) against the Phoenix Suns two days later then went to Sacramento. There he pulled the “I want to break up with you” routine, without to say it verbally. The four points on 2 of 11 from the field, zero free throw attempts, six turnovers and the lack of drives to the basket read pretty badly. It was perhaps the worst match of his illustrious career. It’s good to see it…

Yes my guy. And the last time we saw him with the Nets, he was on the bench watching the team get beaten so hard by the Boston Celtics that TNT switched the stream to the Phoenix Suns vs. Philadelphia 76ers game for home fans. And two days later, Harden’s Nets tenure was up in smoke as he burned every organizational bridge he erected and (rightly) got. calumny by gaming legends.

The NBA is incredibly unique in that a superstar player has such an impact and can lift a team, even if the pieces around him aren’t Hall of Famers. Superstars go the extra mile, lead by example, and keep their teams afloat even when the going gets tough. At the same time, when a superstar starts causing trouble, she can drag everyone down with her until she gets the results They want. For all those who fall victim to it, it creates a stressful, toxic and damaging work environment. At this point, if you know that one party is so determined to leave and will continue to give you and everyone else life hell until they do, you know it’s time to move on.

Once the relationship is over and you look back on it, you wonder if it was worth it. After the initial exchange in January 2021, I wrote:

When the Nets retired the Clean slate in 2019, everything changed. You can no longer be a brave underdog when a top three small forward all time chooses to work for you and partners with another All Star caliber player and former champion. Combine that with the stash of playing in a place like Brooklyn and the star power now here, and it makes even more sense to swing for the fences and play for a Hall of Fame talent still in his prime. When you have a chance to reach the top of the mountain, you owe yourself and your fans the best chance of getting there.

A year and a complicated breakup later, it was still worth it. The team and the fans have the chance to see their first NBA championship and when trying to earn chips you have to go all out and get the best players possible. The Nets swung for the fences and although they missed Harden, the thought was sound. When Harden was engaged and playing seriously, he was a big Net and made it one of the most crushing offenses we’ve ever seen.

Harden deserves big credit for battling a hamstring injury and trying to assist in games five through seven against the Milwaukee dollars in the 2021 playoffs. However, how it ended is what we should remember him by. For someone who is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer, putting him in the field instead of being an adult and asking when he knew he wanted to leave is weak and inappropriate for someone with his resume “.

Breakups suck, but the future is bright. AT Quote Blake Griffin, “We definitely got what we wanted: guys who want to be here and guys who want to play.” That includes Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, two solid hands who provide shooting (Curry), rebounding (Drummond) and an opportunity to relieve some of the workload from a beleaguered team that has been ravaged by injuries and the bad luck last week. Most importantly, they get a star in Ben Simmons who can revive the team, fix their rebounding and defensive activation issues, plus give them a star that can be part of their future. It’s a new day for the Nets, but they hope it brings good vibes and championship parades.

Hang on.

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