James Harden had many issues with the Brooklyn Nets, forcing his way out in a trade. More details are emerging about why he may have felt negatively about the Nets.
The biggest storyline going into the 2021-22 season for the Brooklyn Nets was Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status. Irving refused to get the vaccine over the offseason, and that was a problem for the Nets because the state of New York requires all players to be vaccinated in order to play.
As a result, the Nets deactivated Kyrie indefinitely, claiming they didn’t want a player to be active only for the half the team’s games. However, as injuries piled up for the Nets, Kyrie was brought back, only being allowed to play in away games. That move brought up many questions about what the Nets would look like in the playoffs, and that was reportedly a cause of concern for James Harden.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 3, 2022
James Harden was worried about Kyrie Irving in a potential series against the Toronto Raptors
New York is not the only state mandating players to be vaccinated. Canada, Toronto specifically, also has the same mandate, and that was reportedly a major cause of concern for Harden.
Midway through the season, after KD was injured, and James Harden was guiding a depleted Nets roster, the Raptors were streaking. They had won 8 straight games, and there was a real possibility that they would match up with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
With the vaccine mandates being in effect in both cities, Kyrie Irving would have missed the entire series. Harden already had issues with Irving missing half the Nets’ games, and so missing an entire series would have been the final straw for him.
Via @IanBegley: “According to a source, the prospect of playing the Raptors in the postseason was one of the reasons James Harden was concerned about Irving’s vaccine status earlier in the season.”
— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) March 4, 2022
Of course, a primary reason Harden forced a trade from the Rockets to the Nets was because he wanted to play around a team with major superstars, somewhere he could play a strong offensive game without having to score 30+ every night (like he was doing so often with Houston).
However, the Nets big-three only played 16 games together. Now, Harden is thriving in Philly, and the Brooklyn big-three remains one of the biggest what-ifs in recent memory.