Report: James Harden frustrated by Kyrie Irving’s part-time status

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and James Harden
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The 76ers might want to keep Ben Simmons through the trade deadline to use him to acquire Nets star James Harden next offseason.

But why would Harden, who chose Brooklyn over Philadelphia just over a year ago flip now?

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Harden has been vocal to Nets figures and close contacts alike about his frustrations regarding Kyrie Irving‘s part-time playing status. A recent injury to Kevin Durant has exacerbated the issue, leaving Harden to shoulder the majority of the offensive burden during Brooklyn home games.

Nets coach Steve Nash’s fluid rotations have also disappointed Harden, sources told B/R. Nash has favored hot-hand closing lineups, rather than a fixed crunch-time unit.

His new city could also be an issue. According to multiple sources, Harden has not enjoyed living in Brooklyn, compared to his days as a central Houston magnate. Outside of the change in climate, the chasm between state taxes in New York versus Texas is quite obvious as well.

It’s easy to see how Harden would be frustrated with Irving, who has chosen not to get a vaccine that has proven to be generally safe and effective at reducing coronavirus transmission and severe outcomes. Getting vaccinated would also provide Irving an additional benefit: Allowing him to play Brooklyn home games in a city with a vaccine mandate backed up by the NBA. Though Harden might want Irving partially available (as Irving is now) rather than completely unavailable (as Irving was earlier this season), Harden would probably prefer Irving be completely available.

Irving can say, “I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team.” He has not been.

To be fair, Irving quickly deferred to Harden as the lead guard when the Nets traded for Harden last year. That went a long way in making the historically high-scoring Durant-Harden-Irving trio work. It can be easy to forget now, but there was plenty of – reasonable, I’d say – concern about the stars stepping on each other’s toes. Irving’s initial sacrifice ought to buy him some benefit of the doubt about his commitment to making Harden feel welcome in Brooklyn and helping the team win.

But, again, it’s easy to see how patience would be wearing thin now.

In defense of Nash, the Nets don’t have clear choices for their closing lineup beyond their big three – especially with Joe Harris sidelined. Yes, there’d be value in a particular five-player unit establishing chemistry. But there’s also value in playing matchups. Especially with several similar-level options. Besides, with so many absences throughout the season, there might not have been much alternative.

Harden became accustomed to getting his way with the Rockets. He was always going to have to share decision-making power when joining Durant and Irving in Brooklyn. It’d be the case in Philadelphia with Joel Embiid, too.

I wonder whether Harden at all regrets forcing a trade from Houston. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Though not Texas, where there’s no state income tax, Pennsylvania has a significantly lower state income-tax rate on an NBA star’s salary than New York. However, Philadelphia’s weather is similar to Brooklyn’s.

There are plenty of other obstacles with the 76ers landing Harden, too.

Of course, Philadelphia isn’t Harden’s only option outside Brooklyn. With a player option for next season, Harden can use unrestricted free agency to explore the market. When joining the Nets, Harden ensured he wasn’t tied down long-term.

Harden isn’t requesting a trade before the trade deadline, according to Fischer. The upcoming playoffs will give Harden a highly important final impression of the Nets entering the offseason. Postseason success can go a long way in rendering prior strife as just a nostalgic part of the journey. On the other hand, postseason failure can exacerbate problems, especially blaming teammates and coaches. There’s little telling which Brooklyn will experience.

But if Harden’s baseline entering the playoffs is frustration, that’s pretty significant.

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.