76ers ‘Banking on’ Nets Superstar in Offseason, Says Analyst

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The Brooklyn Nets were blown out by the Milwaukee Bucks in their season opener, but with 81 games to go in the regular season, there isn’t much cause for concern.

Star point guard Kyrie Irving isn’t with the team after so far refusing the coronavirus vaccine, but with James Harden and Kevin Durant leading the charge, the Nets are still among the very best the NBA has to offer.

There’s no doubt that the Nets’ championship chances would be even better if Irving was in the lineup, but that’s something the team can’t worry about at the moment. However, this has ESPN analyst Stephen A Smith concerned that Harden could jump ship and go to an Eastern Conference rival in the offseason, he said on First Take on October 12.

After his extension deadline passed, Harden reiterated that he’s happy in Brooklyn and doesn’t envision himself leaving, per ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth. The Nets can offer him a massive contract in the offseason, but these comments are all coming before the season truly begins.

There’s no telling if his tune might change as time goes on.


Could Harden Leave?

Smith said he believes there’s a real chance Harden could leave Brooklyn in the offseason if things don’t go according to plan this season.

Of course, Philadelphia has a lot on their plate at the moment as part of the ongoing Ben Simmons saga, but if he sits the whole year or gets traded, it’d leave the door wide open for a reunion between Harden and 76ers general manager Daryl Morey.

“If things don’t work out, could James Harden decide to do that, to reunite with Daryl Morey?” Smith asked. “You damn right! Is Daryl Morey banking on something of that magnitude? You damn right he is.”

Now, this move would require a lot of dominoes to fall, with one notable one being the 76ers freeing up a lot of money. This would almost guarantee Simmons would have to be traded, which is not out of the realm of possibilities, but it might be more difficult than previously thought.

The team was exploring trade options throughout the offseason and couldn’t find anything, so it’s hard to imagine anything changing now barring a catastrophic injury or something along those lines to another title contender.


Will Irving Return?

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Something that could help put these rumors to rest is if Irving decides to report to the team. The Brooklyn Nets have said Irving isn’t allowed to be with the team until he becomes a full-time participant — and until he gets vaccinated, he’s not eligible to play in home games as a result of pandemic restrictions in New York.

So far, he’s shown no signs of moving in that direction, which means the Nets will have to compete for a title without him, at least for now. The team has said they would welcome their point guard back with open arms if he does change his mind, but they want to put the distraction behind them for now.

The rotation without Irving is still a work in progress, but with superstars Harden and Durant on the team, the Nets will certainly figure out a lineup that works for everyone.

READ NEXT: Kevin Durant Gives Subtle Shoutout to Kyrie Irving on Opening Night


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