Report: Kevin Durant and James Harden engaged in ‘cold war’ for months

Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans
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Kevin Durant dropped a couple hints, but he mostly concealed his dissatisfaction with the Warriors’ offensive style publicly – until leaving for the Nets. With Brooklyn, Durant opened up about his misgivings. After his infamous incident with then-Golden State teammate Draymond Green, Durant isolated himself.

James Harden‘s passive-aggressiveness has been more-thoroughly documented recently.

So, while focus has been paid to the problems between Harden and Kyrie Irving, it’s not exactly surprising a different combination of Nets stars had tension that’s becoming clear only now. Though he had a desire to keep Harden’s talent in Brooklyn, Durant was eventually ready for the Nets to make the unprecedented in-season star-for-star trade of Harden to the 76ers for Ben Simmons.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Durant was disappointed by the poor conditioning Harden sported during those early Nets practices.

As winter arrived, Nets personnel started telling rival team contacts of the troubling dynamic between Durant and Harden, venting during social gatherings and pregame activities. Harden’s poor conditioning didn’t help his slow adjustment to the NBA’s new foul changes. Durant and Nash wanted a free-flowing offense, which Mike D’Antoni had helped install last season, but Harden preferred his patented iso ball. Brooklyn coaches noticed Harden would roll his eyes when an after-timeout play was designed for Durant, sources said.

“Kevin and James had a cold war going for the last several months that made everyone miserable,” one person with knowledge of the situation said.

Other reports have said Harden was frustrated about shouldering too much offensive burden in Brooklyn with Irving mostly out. Perhaps, these are just different sides trying to control the narrative.

Harden might want to play a more egalitarian style. But that’s a tough adjustment after he dominated the ball – and everything else – with the Rockets. Even with good intentions, stars don’t always cede control smoothly.

This looked like a near-inevitable challenge when the Nets assembled a big three of Durant, Harden and Irving. Brooklyn’s culture didn’t create the right level of accountability and cohesiveness. An inexperienced head coach didn’t get everyone pulling the same direction.

So, mercurial stars butted heads, and now Harden plays for Philadelphia.