James Harden usually waits until the spring to vanish. Whenever you need him most, he’s gone. In a tense series game, you can always count on Harden bouncing when the going gets tough.
After saying the right things last week, Harden failed to show up for several practices, including Wednesday and Monday’s preseason contest. I could pretend to be shocked, but this is par for the course. All offseason he’s gaslit everyone who’d listen about how he wound up in this predicament. Philadelphia has one of the worst track records when it comes to keeping stars happy. However, Harden is selfish.
Last season was free of negative energy. He formed an awesome 1-2 punch with Joel Embiid and led the league in assists per night. I’ve only seen one player of his caliber in a contract year ask off of a contending team. That would be Kyrie Irving, six months ago. That’s not so great company to be included among. Reportedly, Harden found this sort of behavior unsettling from Irving.
Self-awareness has never been The Beards’ strong suit.
Harden is doing his best to match Irving’s all-time low 2021-22 season. His behavior since opting into the contract that Morey presented is equally as mystifying. He’s been melodramatic about the circumstances surrounding his one-sided falling out with Morey and waited until he was in China to denounce Morey, which was lowkey despicable, considering China’s stance towards him.
“This is not even about this situation — this is in life,” Harded bemoaned last week. “When you lose trust in someone, it’s like a marriage … you lose trust in someone, you know what I mean? It’s pretty simple.”
It’s disgusting how much intellectual dishonesty is baked into Harden. It doesn’t even get people upset anymore. His insolence is what we’ve come to expect. He talks about trust as if he isn’t the one who’s been asking out since his last no-show in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Trust is a two-way street. In the offseason, Harden lamented the lack of communication between him and the front office after the Sixers were eliminated in seven games. But it was his decision to opt-in because he believed he could use and manipulate Morey. When that didn’t earth, he went scorched earth. Morey even jettisoned the coach Harden scapegoated.
James Harden is the hardest workin’ man in basketball when it comes to finding ways to hardly work. Chris Paul held him accountable, so he wanted him gone. Brooklyn needed him to play a larger role while Irving was boycotting COVID vaccines during a deadly pandemic. Now that Philadelphia needs him to step up in a contract, Harden wants out. At least Irving had an oddball constituency for his inane beliefs. Who’s rooting Harden on? Clipper Darrell?
Ultimately, whatever reason Harden uses to justify vanishing for a preseason game and multiple practices will be a farce, but unprofessionalism is what you come to expect from Harden. The question that should have Philadelphia nervous is whether he has enough pride in his legacy to play well for a team he doesn’t respect and boost his trade stock once the regular season tips off. Ultimately, Harden is making it even more difficult for the franchise that does acquire him to entrust him with a multi-year deal.
On one hand, Harden cares enough about his paper to avoid earning fines and losing game checks. There are a litany of Houston-area dancers he could put on scholarship with that money. On the other hand, he’s a self-sabotaging nimrod. Reportedly, Harden is huddled down in Houston, which is where he spent all last season hinting he’d rather be than Philly – two years after he demanded a trade out of Houston.
It’s honestly surprising that Harden wants a long-term deal considering how quickly he sours on every jersey he wears. If he does get what he wants in a trade to the Clippers, and asks for an extension on the eve of Clippers move into their brand new stadium, Steve Ballmer will rue the day he gave guaranteed money to Harden because it won’t be long until he’s demanding they trade him to the Lakers or back to Brooklyn.
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