What makes James Harden happy?

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James Harden

James Harden
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James Harden just got heavily armed from his second team in two years. The funny thing is that he was in two completely different situations.

In Houston, Harden would have been the lone superstar player on a team headed for a rebuild. He solved this by skipping training camp to go to strip clubs in Vegas and Atlanta and by donning an early winter coat thick. This forced Houston to trade him to Brooklyn for players I don’t remember and neither can you.

Barely a year later with the Nets, he wanted out again. He was on a team with two other superstar players who certainly struggled, having lost 10 in a row, but still one of the favorites to win the title. One of the most prolific goalscorers in NBA history scored 4 points in 37 minutes against the Kings and sat out the next few games with a hamstring injury that only the 76ers’ athletic trainers can recover.

This begs the question: what does he want? His past two basketball situations couldn’t have been more different and yet he wasn’t happy in either one. Is there any reason to believe he won’t leave Philadelphia of his own free will or ask for a trade next year?

Harden didn’t want to take Houston to a first-round playoff exit, and he didn’t want to be part of a Big Three that should have easily won a title. At this point, no one knows exactly why Harden wanted to leave Brooklyn. Maybe he was tired of Kyrie describing to him the ice wall at the edge of the flat earth, in which case fair. If he was concerned that Kyrie would only be a part-time player affecting their title chances, he should know that he and Kevin Durant on the same team are enough. If you have Harden and Durant in a team, they are immediately the favorites to win the title.

In Houston, he couldn’t get along with Dwight Howard, so the front office kicked him out and brought in Chris Paul. Harden couldn’t get along with the apparently washed-out Paul, someone who years later helped bring Phoenix back from a laughing stock to the frontrunners of the West, so Paul was traded in for Russel Westbrook. Westbrook didn’t work, so he was traded in for John Wall. Harden didn’t even want to play with Wall and was traded to Brooklyn. And somehow Brooklyn, the star-studded, largest media-market-in-the-land, that should win a title in their sleep, isn’t good enough. Maybe Harden just doesn’t play well with others.

He informally requested a trade on the day of the trade deadline, reportedly because he feared the public reaction that would accompany a formal request, which is hilarious. Does he think fans care what kind of trade request it was? Before that day I had no idea there was such a thing as a “formal” or “informal” trade request.

For it to be formal, does he have to write it in calligraphy and have it delivered to the general manager by carrier pigeon? What does an informal trade request look like? Harden said nothing, but did he have that unmistakable look in his eye as he peered into Sean Marks’ office? That look reserved only for significant others on romantic nights out, that look that says, “trade me to Philadelphia, you stallion.”

I think I got it. In Houston he had zero superstar teammates and in Brooklyn he had two. Philadelphia is a happy middle ground with one in Joel Embiid. Now not only does Harden have to carry a team, but he can also use 23 seconds of a shot clock to dribble into place whenever he wants before the swan plunges its head into a defender and pulls a foul. This may really be the best situation for Harden, but if they burn out in the playoffs earlier than expected, as Harden teams often do, go ahead and place your bet on where Harden will be on a flight to February. My guess is Miami.

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