By Steve Kelly
James Harden returned to Brooklyn as a Sixer last night, a year after the Nets traded him for Ben Simmons.
Harden had 29 points, 6 rebounds and six assists.
Simmons had 4 points in 16 minutes.
So, there’s no doubt who won the trade, which when it was made drew major shade from blowhards like Stephen A. Smith who said, “This could potentially go down as the worst day in the career of Daryl Morey, the worst day.”
Wonder what Stephen A. thinks now?
Harden insisted he wasn’t surprised that less than a year after he forced his way out of Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant had followed him out the Barclays Center door.
“I didn’t just ask to leave for no reason,” Harden said of requesting a trade away from the Rockets, which brought him to the Nets in January 2021.
“I was in a really good place in Houston. So for me to up and leave my family, all the things I created there, to come to Brooklyn for a year-and-a-half to try to just get up and leave [the Nets], it was for a reason, you know what I mean?”
Irving missed two-thirds of the 2021-22 season due to his refusal to adhere to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Sources have said that was maddening to Harden, even if he wouldn’t say so.
“That’s not something that I’m going to answer. But the reason I made that decision to get out of my comfort zone, which was leave Houston and do everything that I did to get out of there was to come in and play with KD and Kyrie,” Harden said. “That didn’t happen as much as I would like to or probably the organization wanted to. It was just something where I knew it wasn’t going to change.”
The Nets won more than 81 percent of their games with all of the Big 3 together. The problem is, that only happened 16 times.
“Frustrating. It’s a lot of what-ifs when you play less than 20 games together. So it’s a little bit frustrating,” Harden said. “But it is what it is. Hopefully everybody’s in a good place now and we can move on.”
“But now, fast forward to date, I don’t look like the crazy one. I don’t look like the quitter. … I knew what was going on and I just decided to [say] ‘Hey, I’m not built for this. I don’t want to deal with that. I want to play basketball and have fun and enjoy doing it.’ And fast forward to today, they’ve got a whole new roster.”