The blockbuster trade sending James Harden to Philadelphia in return for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks is official. The Nets announced it during the Brooklyn-Washington game, a welcome respite from the mediocre basketball on the court at Capital One Arena.
And once the transaction became official, Steve Nash and Harden’s now former Net teammates were free to talk about the trade, their thoughts on the three acquisitions as well as Harden, offering both diplomatic and not-so-diplomatic assessments.
Overall, the reactions were mixed. All wished the 32-year-old guard the best moving forward but there was no doubt that many in the organization were less than thrilled with Harden. In fact, more than one — both on the record at Thursday night’s media session and elsewhere —contrasted Harden’s style with players who want to be in Brooklyn, who want to play.
In fact, the openness of some of the comments highlighted just how ugly things had become.
Kyrie Irving admitted that there’s “no love lost” after Harden’s decision to leave Brooklyn for Philadelphia.
Did he know Harden wanted to be dealt?
”I can’t say that we feel that in the locker room; but we get hints.” He added Harden had the power to force a trade, and “he put it on display.”
Still, Irving explained how he wants all parties involved in the trade deadline blockbuster to be happy and successful doing what they love to do.
“Now that it’s official, I think we can say our piece to James and wish him well. Ultimately for me, I just want everybody to be happy and do things they love to do, and be a part of things you can see themselves being successful at,” Irving said. “It probably wasn’t here with us. He made a choice and we respect him for it. No love lost and now we welcome in the guys that are coming in. We’re excited. We have some things to look forward to for the team to continue to grow and continue to take the steps in the right direction to be closer as a team.”
When the Nets guard was asked whether he tried to convince the disgruntled Harden to remain in Brooklyn, Irving said he didn’t feel like it was his place ... nor his responsibility. Irving also mentioned how he sensed hints of a possible departure and how he doesn’t know if his unvaccinated status (that has deprived the Nets of his services in Brooklyn) affected Harden’s decision to want out.
“It’s not really my place in terms of trying to convince somebody of something that they probably can’t see right now. James probably couldn’t see what we were getting into. Obviously with my status being in-and-out, I saw a few things that could have impacted things, but who knows? I can’t really speak for James,” Irving stated.
“I’ve been in a situation to where I’ve asked for a trade and I understand it. I’m not here to judge him. I’m not here to talk bad on James. He has a great family. He’s a great person and I don’t want to separate that fact from anything. I just really want him to be happy.”
Steve Nash, who reached out to Harden wishing him the best of luck after the trade was completed, said he ultimately wasn’t surprised that his superstar guard was dealt to Philadelphia, As the 3:00 p.m. ET trade deadline ticked closer, he said things became apparent to him.
The Nets head coach, who redirected a question about what changed with Harden to Sean Marks and the front office, added there hadn’t been a conversation between the teams when he last spoke with the media at shootaround Thursday morning, saying he didn’t think Harden would get dealt. He also said he isn’t sure whether the superstar guard requested a trade.
“I’m not surprised. In the last hours, as the hours ticked by the day, it seemed more apparent,” Nash said. “You’re never surprised but when I was asked those questions, there was no conversation between the two teams,” said Nash on dealing Harden to Philadelphia.
In concluding comments on the Net-turned-Sixer guard, Nash wished his former guard good luck. “I wish James the best,” Nash added. “It was a pleasure to coach him and he’s a historic player. He’ll be great in Philly and we wish him the best. We move forward now.”
Sean Marks, who will speak with the media Friday, commented on the deal in the press release put out by the Nets organization officially announcing the deal. The Nets GM opened the statement by welcoming the three newest Nets and their families then closed it with his thoughts on Harden — calling the decision to deal his superstar guard “a difficult one.” Still, he said he believed dealing Harden was the best for all parties.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ben, Seth, Andre and their families to Brooklyn,” Marks said. “Ben is an All-NBA and All-Defensive player with elite playmaking abilities, while Seth has proven to consistently be one of the league’s best 3-point shooters and Andre has been one of the league’s top rebounders for the last decade. Together, the three will enhance our core by providing versatility and depth on both ends of the floor while better balancing our roster.
“The decision to trade James was a difficult one, however after recent discussions with him and his representatives we felt that this move would be best for all involved, as it better positions us to achieve our goals this season and in the years ahead. We appreciate everything that James has done for our organization both on and off the court and wish him, Paul and DeAndre’ the best moving forward.”
Blake Griffin, on the other hand, took a less diplomatic tone. As the resident enforcer on the Nets, Griffin showed he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He let the media know just how he felt about Harden’s exit starting with “I think we got better” (Oh my!)
He wasn’t done either. Blake also had a rather persnickety comment about Brooklyn bringing in guys that “want to be here.” (Yikes!)
“I can’t really speak for Philly, but as far as us, I think we definitely got what we wanted — guys that want to be here and guys want to come play, and I think we’re excited about that,” said Griffin. “Can’t really speak for Philly like I said, but it seems pretty obvious territory Daryl Morey probably wanted that to get done.”
Patty Mills was also asked about Harden’s exit. The 33-year-old veteran mentioned that the move certainly smoothed out some things by removing the “distractions.”
“The distractions can leave us and we can now focus on the task at hand,” said Mills.
He also mentioned that pushing the pace was something that the team “likes,” describing it as one of Simmons’ strengths. That also could raise an eyebrow or two given the pace of the team under Harden’s control.
“I think it probably just narrows our focus a little bit more and one of those things where the distractions can now leave us and we can focus on the task at hand and instill what our goal has been,” said Mills.
Mills also reminisced about what could’ve been with the “Big Three,” noting just how close the group was to finally coming together — and how much of the season was spent waiting for the full squad to become whole. He also echoed his teammates' statements by arguing that he was excited for both parties — the Sixers and the Nets — and also wished Harden luck with the next chapter of his career.
“I think that was part of the season there just waiting for the time for everyone to be healthy and everyone to be on the court at the same time to really see what we could do. Now, you get to a point in the season where that just, unfortunately, didn’t happen,” said Mills. “At the end of the day, I think you’re just happy for both parties, looking forward to being excited for the next chapters of their careers, and wish him the best.”
Of course, the final word, as it is with everything in the Nets organization, was left to Kevin Durant. He too left little doubt where he stood.
“I’m excited for our team finishing the season out with this new group, and these new players - I’m excited. I think everyone got what they wanted,” said the Nets superstar. “Just glad we have guys that want to be a part of this.”