James Harden drama is becoming ‘elephant’ Nets are trying to tune out
The Rockets have no idea where AWOL James Harden is. But he has made it pretty clear where he wants to be, and that’s Brooklyn, not Houston.
With rumors swirling about Harden having demanded a trade, and having stayed away from training camp to help force one, his status has become the elephant in the room. It is one the Nets are trying to ignore.
“I guess we let the elephant be,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of the Harden rumors. “I love our guys and hopefully they all feel really valued and wanted and respected. We have so many guys that bring so much to the table.
“When I’m in the gym with them every day I feel fortunate. So hopefully they feel that, and they don’t feel that we’re looking out the window at greener pastures, because we love what we have here and hopefully our behavior every day emits that and guys feel comfortable, valued and supported and striving for something individually and collectively.”
It’s obvious why Nash would try to reassure his players that the Nets aren’t out there trying to trade a bunch of them away to get Harden.
Kevin Durant — Harden’s former Thunder teammate — has reportedly spoken with his longtime friend about a reunion in Brooklyn. Harden — who has been spotted partying without wearing a mask in Atlanta, a violation of NBA protocols — still hasn’t shown up in Rockets training camp.
Houston coach Stephen Silas said he hasn’t spoken to Harden recently. Sunday he had expected the star to have an individual workout in Houston that night, only to have video emerge of Harden partying in Las Vegas. On Monday, he called the situation a setback and admitted he has no clue if Harden is even in Houston.
“I don’t know,” said Silas, unsure of what Harden’s message to the team was. “I take it basically at face value that he’s not here; and what the reasoning is, is on him. He’s the one who can explain why … he’s not here.
“There is some time, but it is a setback. I have to be honest and understand that this is a setback, not having one of the best players in the NBA here.”
That player isn’t there because he’s exercising his leverage. With league sources saying the Nets are content to go into the season with their current roster and wait Houston out, Harden is forcing the Rockets’ hand.
If Harden is successful in forcing a move, it would almost certainly see the Nets giving up a combination of Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. But when asked about Harden’s power move, LeVert feigned ignorance and tried to deflect the question.
“How do we handle James Harden not going to practice?” LeVert deadpanned. “For us, for myself, I don’t really have anything to do with James Harden not going to practice. That doesn’t concern me.
“I’m focused on the team, the Nets, myself, trying to be the best I can be so that we can be better as a team. I don’t really focus on all of that stuff. That really has nothing to do with me.”
Clearly it does though. In truth, any potential Harden trade not only impacts the Nets, but the balance of power in the entire league.
Harden’s mother Monja Willis — who has represented him in business dealings before — took to social media Monday, going on her Instagram page to respond to a fan who had criticized her son by saying he just wants a shot at a title.
“He is doing what is best for his career. Please pay attention and understand,” Willis said. “He has worked hard every time he suited up for his job, giving 210 percent. He ask for a chance to get a ring that’s it. Anyone in their right mind in this busy would want that.”