PHILADELPHIA — With the Nets set to face former teammate James Harden for the first time since he forced the trade last month, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant aren’t sure they could have said or done anything. it is to change his mind about his departure.
On the eve of Thursday’s meeting, a game with the 76ers, the remaining two-thirds of what should have been a historic Brooklyn Big 3 insisted there were no hard feelings. Irving just said he got too many mixed messages and too little real discussion and communication.
“I was coming late into things, and I was told one thing, then another thing, then the trade deadline comes up and now it’s a completely different situation,” Irving said. “Now I’m answering questions about what happened, or whether things could have been better or not. I don’t have a timeline for whether things could have been better or not.
“I thought we were in a good swing. But everyone has their own vision of the beginning of the seasons, everyone has their own vision of the beginning and the end of their career. If that’s what James wanted, then I respect his decision and that’s exactly what it is. I wish him only peace and love. We have a great friendship, but it didn’t work out. I wish things were better communicated for all of us as men, but hey, no hard feelings here with me or anyone else.
Multiple sources said Harden consistently told the Nets that everything was fine, but made his disenchantment known outside of the team. And he confirmed at last month’s 76ers introductory press conference that Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated (and therefore become a full-time player) played a part.
Irving felt Harden could have been more clear with the team about how he felt, but also took some responsibility for the situation — in terms of communication, not vaccination.
“It’s organization, so we all communicate. We are all responsible for it,” Irving said. “It’s great for the league to build things like this, but we have a group in our locker room where we just want to be mature for Philadelphia, handle business and move on.”
For his part, Durant echoed the sentiment of moving on. He also said he wasn’t sure there was anything that could have convinced Harden to stay long-term.
“I don’t know,” Durant said. “When you look at him from his perspective, and you look up and Ky isn’t playing, then I’m injured, he’s never won a league before, so he looks – he’s 32, I guess – he looks at himself, wanting to make the decision to be part of a team that can somehow enter this fight, being one of the last teams standing.
“So if you look at it from his perspective, you could tell that’s what it is. You can’t really control how someone feels when they think like that. I hope he stay healthy and their team stay healthy, we stay healthy, we’re having a great year, they’re having a great year, and we’re moving on.
Harden did not speak during Wednesday’s practice. Sixers coach Doc Rivers said, “It’s obviously a different game with what’s happened.” He added that this series had a little more on the ground even before the trade.
“It’ll be a different feeling playing him shortly after the trade, but exciting,” Nets coach Steve Nash said.
Durant channeled a past, done, vibe against Harden. He said there was a time when he would have been very excited to face a recently traded teammate, but now he just wants the win.
“When I was younger, 22, 23, you see a guy who’s just been traded and your emotions are everywhere. You don’t know how you’re going to approach the game because it looks like a big game because you’re playing against one of your old teammates,” Durant said. “But that’s how it is. It’s just another game for us.
“We are looking to win and they are looking to win. … I know James was here and he built relationships with a few people here, but at the end of the day, we’re looking to get out there and hoop.
New York Post