“Durant was astonished in the opening weeks of the season at Harden’s lack of explosiveness and sluggish play, something he attributed in large part to Harden’s being out of shape, as he did the ensuing hamstring issues,” Arnovitz reported.
Durant and Harden, who were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2009-10 to 2011-12, were never able to resolve their conflict and Harden wound up requesting a trade. The Nets traded the Beard to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and draft picks at the February trade deadline.
Harden ‘Found Durant’s Slant Grating and Self-Righteous’
According to Arnovitz, Harden “found Durant’s slant grating and self-righteous.” The 2017-18 MVP began to isolate himself from his teammates and everyone in the Nets organization became frustrated.
“With each passing week, Harden became more isolated, with staff and teammates increasingly frustrated by the static,” Arnovitz reported.
Over FaceTime calls as the February trade deadline neared, Harden told Nets general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai that he wanted a trade to the Sixers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. The 10-time All-Star got his wish on February 10 and reunited with Daryl Morey. Harden and Morey have a close relationship dating back to their days on the Houston Rockets.
Harden and the Sixers finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia will face the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, Durant and the Nets have to advance past the play-in tournament to qualify for the postseason.
Harden Averaged 21.0 Points & 10.5 Assists for Sixers; Durant Still Has Kyrie Irving
Harden appeared in 21 games for the Sixers following the Nets trade. He averaged 21.0 points and 10.5 assists while shooting 40.2% from the field, 32.6% from beyond the arc and 89.2% from the free-throw line. The Sixers went 14-7 when Harden and Joel Embiid played.
Durant, who refused to select Harden during the 2022 All-Star Draft, put up 29.9 points per game this season. The one-time MVP and Kyrie Irving have to win one play-in tournament game to reach the playoffs. The Nets’ first play-in game is against Irving’s former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Durant, Harden and Irving only played 16 games together. The Nets went 13-3 and looked like legitimate title contenders. Unfortunately for Brooklyn fans, Harden couldn’t get on the same page with Durant and Irving and began distancing himself from the Nets with a similar pattern to how he forced a trade from the Rockets during the 2020-21 season.
It will be interesting to see how the Nets and Sixers perform in the playoffs. Most pundits expect Brooklyn to advance past the play-in tournament since Durant and Irving are two of the best scorers in the NBA. As for Philadelphia, Harden’s hamstring is something to watch since he hasn’t been able to drive past his defenders with ease.