The James Harden trade is an extraordinarily cathartic moment in the recent history of sports because it hits everyone the same way:
What the hell just happened?
While you can argue that this was just Houston’s way of sheet-jerking the impeachment news, the four-team trade that now puts Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving on the same team at the same time in radically different headspaces, and frankly, it feels a bit like Nets general manager Sean Marks and his boss, Joe Tsai, just sent a memo to Irving that reads, “Take your time coming back, but we’re not necessarily waiting for you.” And this metaphorical memo must surely have Durant’s name in invisible ink.
Oh, it won’t be explained that way. There are sensitive men and matters at play here, but this trade is the hand grenade that will either blow up the rest of the Eastern Conference, or just the Nets’ place in it. It reeks of the impatient billionaire who has seen his new superteam fraying before his eyes and decided not to wait to make a new one.
It could also be that this has been Brooklyn’s play all along, and that Irving’s indecision was just him waiting on Harden to join the new Justice League of America …. but then I’d be trying to figure out what Kyrie Irving thinks, and that’s an inside straight that cannot be filled.
Houston moved its irritant to a team that already has one, and got all the draft choices in the world to start over from zero point. What Indiana and Cleveland got is off-road driving. But on the main highway, the Nets are the 18-wheeler on a downslope. In re-pairing Harden and Durant, they seem to be indulging in the manic decision-making of people who aren’t waiting around for their original plan to bear fruit. The Nets have burned down their draft to get Harden, and they have done so at least in part because Kyrie Irving is still in self-imposed stasis. That’s the story we’re trying to make sense of, and we’re sticking to it.
Until further notice.