Hartford Courant

Harden not surprised Durant, Irving fled Nets

- By Brian Mahoney

NEW YORK — James Harden isn’t surprised Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted out of Brooklyn, having tired quickly of the “dysfunctio­n” he saw in his brief time with the Nets and asking out.

“I didn’t just ask to leave for no reason,” Harden said.

Harden was traded to Philadelph­ia at the 2022 trade deadline. By the time he came back Saturday just a year later for the first time in the regular season, Durant and

Irving were also gone.

He wouldn’t specify his reasons for souring so quickly, but made clear he felt there were problems within the Nets organizati­on.

“There was just a lot of dysfunctio­n — clearly. There was a lot of internal things that I’m not going to ever just say or put in the media or anything, and that was one of the reasons why I chose to make my decision,” Harden said after scoring 29 points in the 76ers’ 101-98 victory.

“But now, fast forward to today, I don’t look like the crazy one,” he added. “I don’t look like the guy, or the quitter or whatever the media want to call me. Like, I knew what was going on and I just decided to, like, I’m not built for this. I don’t want to deal with that. I want to play basketball and have fun and enjoy doing it.”

Harden was acquired from Houston in January 2021 and the Nets quickly became a championsh­ip favorite with their potent lineup. But they lost in the second round of those playoffs after both Irving and Harden were injured against Milwaukee, then struggled to get off the ground in 2021-22 after Irving refused to be vaccinated against the coronaviru­s so he could be eligible to play in all their games.

After Durant sprained his knee in January 2022, the Big Three was often down to just one and Harden’s effort and interest seemed to wane while forced to carry a team that had to play unproven players around him.

He told the organizati­on he wanted to leave and the Nets sent him to the 76ers in a package for Ben Simmons.

 ?? DECROW/AP JASON ?? The 76ers’ James Harden shoots over the Nets’ Joe Harris during Saturday’s game.
DECROW/AP JASON The 76ers’ James Harden shoots over the Nets’ Joe Harris during Saturday’s game.

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