Report: 'Disappointed' James Harden could seek to leave Nets this offseason

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James Harden has begun to find his groove again with the conference-leading Nets, averaging 26 points over his last 15 games.

But the Brooklyn star is reportedly not set on staying with the franchise long term due to lingering frustrations, and could be looking to hit the open market this offseason.

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According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Harden has told former teammates and coaches that he hopes to explore “other opportunities outside of Brooklyn this summer,” relating to frustrations linked to Kyrie Irving’s current role with the team, head coach Steve Nash’s rotations and the city of Brooklyn itself.

Per Fischer, Harden has been “vocal” with the Nets about his frustration with Irving’s status as a part-time player due to Irving being unvaccinated for COVID-19. Harden joked during a press conference earlier this month that he was “gonna give [Irving] the shot” in reference to a vaccine, and last week told reporters that he wished Irving was available for every game. For now, Irving is only available in games outside of New York and Toronto due to vaccine mandates, and Irving recently reiterated that he is holding his stance on not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

With Irving only on the floor part time and Kevin Durant out 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury, Harden is being relied upon heavily by the Nets, and it seems like he wishes his fellow star in Irving was available full time to help shoulder the load.

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Fischer reports that Nash’s rotations have also “disappointed” Harden, something that hasn’t shown signs of slowing down as Nash has said publicly that he will continue to experiment with new rotations, citing a roster that has many similar players. In addition, Harden has reportedly “not enjoyed” living in Brooklyn, and preferred his off-the-court life in Houston when he was with the Rockets.

So, where does that leave Harden and the Nets? Harden is under contract through the 2022-23 season after signing an extension with the Rockets back in 2017, and is set to make over $46 million next season. He could choose to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason by declining his player option for next season, but that would drastically diminish his options of where to go next due to cap space issues. Harden could opt in to his player option and go the sign-and-trade route if the Nets could find a suitor. The rival 76ers are reportedly holding out hope that Harden could be acquired in a package that would include Ben Simmons, and many other teams would likely be interested if the 11-time All-Star was put on the trading block.

Harden is averaging 22.7 points per game this season, and was supposed to represent a pillar of Brooklyn’s big three after coming over via trade last season. But due to injuries and Irving’s vaccination status, the trio have spent minimal time on the court together. If this becomes Harden’s last season in Brooklyn, the superstar trio would have provided little more than a tease of what could have been with all three sharing the floor.

Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1

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