What to do with The Beard?Illustration: Getty Images
So, the cat seems to have entirely escaped the bag at this point. James Harden allegedly wants out of Brooklyn barely one calendar year into his stint with the team. It sounds like it’s more than just the part-time status of teammate Kyrie Irving that’s bugging Harden. Although the Nets, losers of eight straight, may not usher Harden through the exits, they do have options in this situation.
Trade him immediately
The first and most obvious choice would be to send Harden on his way, possibly to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons. That fantasy trade has been talked about for months, and we could be getting closer to something happening with the trade deadline looming. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets shut down any Harden trade talks as recently as last month. But we know how this game works. There will be another call or two, I’m sure, in the next couple of days leading into the Feb. 10 deadline.
If the Nets can’t get a deal done for Simmons, they do have the option of trading Harden anywhere else in the league, since he doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his current contract. The only thing that could hinder that plan is Harden becoming a free agent this summer. Most teams will shy away from a deal unless Harden agrees to re-sign once the season ends (or signs some type of extension before the trade happens). Unless it’s a team that feels they’re right on the cusp of winning a championship, what team will take Harden for just a few months while also giving up assets?
Call Harden’s bluff, force him to finish the season
Brooklyn could also play hardball and tell Harden it won’t trade him now and make him finish the season chasing a title alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. While forcing him to finish the season, the Nets could continue their attempts at re-signing Harden to a long-term deal. When the Big 3 are together on the court, this team is outstanding. Together they have at least a shot at making it to the Finals, even if Irving can only play in away games. When Durant returns from injury, Brooklyn could again go on a tear…