OK, So James Harden Is a Net. Now What?

Illustration for article titled OK, So James Harden Is a Net. Now What?
Photo: Scott Halleran (Getty Images)

Much like every other member of his team, Rockets center Boogie Cousins was fed up.


“The disrespect started way before any interview,” he fumed to reporters on Wednesday.

The target of his ire? “Teammate” James Harden, who spent the night before openly questioning the team’s chemistry and talent before deeming the Rockets a lost cause: “We’re just not good enough.”

It was a slap in the face to every member of that organization. But specifically, the men that Harden went to war with on the basketball court. So Cousins had a few things to get off his chest.

“Obviously, it’s disrespectful, but everybody has a right to their opinion. We feel a certain type of way about some of his actions,” Cousins continued. “Just [his] approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court, the disrespect started way before [Tuesday night]. This isn’t something that all of the sudden happened last night.”

Illustration for article titled OK, So James Harden Is a Net. Now What?
Photo: @pg13sucks

Soon after Cousins called out The Beard, the Rockets banned their franchise player from practice and it was only a matter of time before the inevitable divorce proceedings went into hyperdrive. And when the dust settled, strippers throughout Houston lined up to apply for PPP loans because the eight-time All-Star was no longer a Rocket.


It was ESPN’s Adrian “Woj” Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne who broke the news that the Rockets and Harden’s relationship was no longer Facebook official, and here’s how the four-team blockbuster played out:

Brooklyn Nets acquire: James “Toxic Chucker” Harden

Houston Rockets acquire: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, three first-round draft picks from Brooklyn (2022, 2024, 2026), one first-round pick from Milwaukee (2022), and four first-round pick swaps from Brooklyn (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)


Indiana Pacers acquire: Caris LeVert, 2nd-rounder

That One Team That’s Not the Browns acquire: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

Personally, I think this is a terrible idea for the Nets. Expecting Durant, Kyrie, and Harden to share the same ball is like expecting Drake, Future, and Trey Songz to share the same woman. In what realm of reality does this even make sense?


More specifically, how does Harden—who values defense about as much as he does training camp—resolve Brooklyn’s defensive woes? Or that gaping hole at center? Yes, championships are built on talent, but they’re also built on surrounding your superstars with the right complementary pieces. The Lakers have mastered this formula time and time again, while the Brooklyn Ballhogs—Kyrie hasn’t exactly been popular in the locker room either—have yet to prove themselves. And losing quality contributors like Jarrett Allen and potential All-Star Caris LeVert hurts like hell. Especially with Spencer Dinwiddie already out for the year with an ACL tear.


Oh, and did I mention that this is all under the stewardship of a rookie head coach with zero coaching experience? Yeah, let me know how that works out for y’all.

Also, before you point out the blueprint that the Warriors gave the entire league on how to make three All-Stars co-exist without sacrificing their games—Chris Bosh could never—just remember that the Curry-Durant-Thompson trifecta was able to thrive because of how well they played together off the ball. Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook dipped on Houston because of Harden’s refusal to do exactly that (the culture Harden instilled didn’t help) and you already know Kyrie ain’t bout that life either.


It’s hard out here when you have some of the highest usage rates in the history of the entire league to coddle.


That being said, the Nets still have the most top-heavy roster in the NBA. So in the East, they’re a lock for the playoffs. But what they’re not a lock for, as currently constructed, is a championship—something Harden knows all too well. So for him to skip training camp, quit on his team, mope, deliberately risk exposing his teammates to COVID-19, and disrupt the locker room only to end up in a nearly identical situation with fancier window dressing is the poetic justice a toxic chucker of his ilk deserves.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.



Offensively, it should work. The talent is overwhelming, and all three have proven to be able to a)play on or off the ball, and b)succeed with other high-usage stars. Say what you will about how it ended, but Harden won a shitload of games with Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.

Harden was playing as a more conventional, albeit high-usage, shooting guard just a few years ago. The way he’s played in Houston isn’t the only way he’s capable of playing at an elite level, and Durant is the first teammate he’s had since...well, Durant, that was this good, at the same stage of his career as Harden is, and has enough cred to check Harden’s worst tendencies.

Doesn’t fix much defensively, but doesn’t make the defense worse, either. Harden’s defensive shortcomings have been overstated by quite a bit.