Among the biggest questions when Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving joined forces on the Nets: How will they handle that near-inevitable clash of egos?
The answer emerged as Harden – reportedly frustrated with Irving – sulked until Brooklyn traded him to the 76ers yesterday.
Apparently, the dissatisfaction between Harden and Irving was mutual.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
The Nets were in Cleveland Jan. 17. In their locker room before the game, Kyrie Irving lit ablaze some sage — a Native American ritual Irving has embraced to cleanse negative energy. Irving doesn’t do this before every game, but he apparently still feels haunted by parts of his past on the Cavs. So he lit his torch.
Harden, according to sources who were in the room when it happened, was seated in front of his locker, watching Irving, and looked at Kyrie like he had three heads.
“Definitely a weird vibe between them,” one source said. “You could tell Harden was annoyed, and Kyrie wasn’t feeling James.”
Irving was ready for Harden to move on, too. When Irving heard Harden was in fact hoping to be traded, a well-placed source says he was eager to see it come to fruition.
Irving isn’t for everyone. Harden isn’t for everyone.
It’s unsurprising they clashed.
For what it’s worth, Irving spoke kindly of Harden yesterday, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:
“For James, we have so much history in our day and age even playing together or even just watching each other from afar, and it’s a mutual respect. I can’t really say that you feel that in the locker room, so to say, but we get hints. We just wish him well and we want him to be ultimately successful and now we move forward with the guys that are coming in and we’re excited.”
“I think we’re also forgetting, too, where I’ve asked for a trade, and I understand it, so 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. I want everybody in this league to be happy.”
This wouldn’t be the first time someone took the high road publicly while letting his true feelings known in a way a reporter gets wind of. But it’s worth listening to what Irving actually said with his name attached, not just an anonymous description of his feelings.
Maybe Harden was “right” (as much as someone can be right in these disputes). After all, Irving’s decision not to get vaccinated coupled with New York City’s vaccine mandate really disrupted the Nets.
But Harden must also look in the mirror if he wants to join Durant and Irving with a championship.
Durant got along well enough with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to win two rings with the Warriors. Irving got along well enough with LeBron James to win a title with the Cavaliers.
Harden clashed with Dwight Howard then Chris Paul, undoing some really good Rockets teams. Again, maybe Harden was “right” in all those instances. But it’s hard to build a championship-caliber roster if limiting the pool of potential teammates to only those who are easy to get along with.
Now, Harden joins Joel Embiid and his big personality in Philadelphia.
We’ll see it how it goes.