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Was It Fair to Ridicule James Harden's Wish to Be Traded?

Sean McDermott

Posted on January 16, 2021 19:43

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An epic, four-team-deal sent long-time Houston Rockets star, James Harden, to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday leaving many angered by his behaviors and demands — but was it fair to ridicule him?

This past Wednesday it was announced the NBA's scoring champion of the last three years and MVP of 2018, James Harden, was to be the highlight of a blockbuster, four-team trade sending him to the Brooklyn Nets. The trade reunites Harden with former teammate and fellow star, Kevin Durant, from their days with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden, famously known as "The Beard" for his notoriously long, wide, and loud facial hair style, now brings his talents to the home of the Notorious B.I.G.

It's been no secret that Harden wanted out of the Houston Rockets organization. Harden's wish to be traded from the Rockets goes back to mid-November. Shortly after word circulated, Harden was caught on social media violating league Covid-19 protocols by traveling to and partying in multiple cities the week of the team's first practice (subsequently causing him to miss it.) Fast-forwarding to this past Tuesday, the Rockets were embarrassed by LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, 117-100. After the game, Harden voiced his disappointments that the team "wasn't good enough," they lacked "chemistry, talent," and despite saying he still loves the city, the situation was "crazy" and couldn't be "fixed." 

Already knowing Harden's wish to be traded, many still chose to act surprised. The likes of ESPN's Sportscenter host, Scott Van Pelt, and fellow NBA analyst, Tim Legler, mutually ridiculed Harden's behavior leading up to the trade. Van Pelt said Harden's Rockets were "spanked" by the Lakers and later agreed with Tim Legler who said Harden's actions are bad for fellow players, the league, and professional sports in general.

It's easy to regard Harden as being out of line up to the moment of the trade, but let's put some interesting optics into view. First, Harden wasn't the only Houston star who requested a trade at the beginning of the season. Fellow guard, Russell Westbrook, curiously wanted out after only one season in Houston and landed with the Washington Wizards. Secondly, the Houston franchise is owned by Tilman Fertitta; businessman, billionaire, and open supporter/donor of Donald Trump and conservative, Republican politics in general. In this era of passionate demands for social justice and politics causing a polarized society, publicly supporting any political brand could be bad for business. 

Harden hasn't mentioned politics playing a direct role in his trade, but Westbrook leaving after just one season was peculiar. The Rockets also replaced veteran coach Mike D'Antoni with a first-year coach, Stephen Silas. Nevertheless, Harden had been there eight years, consistently putting up stellar numbers. His career playoff-to-regular season numbers are off a mere 23.5 to 25.1 points per game, but The Houston Chronicle said Harden had "fallen short when it mattered most." 

An easy answer is Harden feels he can win a championship ring in Brooklyn with his burden distributed among Durant and Brooklyn's other star, Kyrie Irving. If Harden's trade wishes betrayed loyalty to Houston, free agency sees players leave old teams every single year.

Sean McDermott

Posted on January 16, 2021 19:43

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Houston Rockets star James Harden is traded to the Brooklyn Nets a day after criticising his team-mates.

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