NBA

Nash ponders the 'what ifs' after Harden departs the Nets

By Sports Desk February 11, 2022

Steve Nash could not help but contemplate the "what ifs" after James Harden's brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was ended in a big trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

One of the most prolific shooters in NBA history, Harden was drafted to the Nets in January 2021 to form a tantalising big three alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, a combination of factors limited the amount of game time the trio enjoyed on court together, with Durant contending with injuries and Irving unable to play home fixtures this season as he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Health protocols in New York mean players have to be jabbed to play in the city

Harden averaged just 22.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

Despite head coach Nash consistently saying Harden would not be moved on, he was sent to Philly in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets also included Paul Millsap in the deal.

Speaking after the Nets were defeated 113-112 by the Washington Wizards – their 10th loss in a row – Nash could not help but wonder how things could have played out differently in last season's playoffs when they lost out in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"You're up 2-0 against the NBA champs, and then to not have James in the first games and then Kyrie in the last games, James being on one leg, Jeff Green being out of the lineup, all sorts of things that hampered our opportunity to win," Nash said. 

"To take them to overtime in Game 7, you definitely think there are some what-ifs, but that's life. You can't look back. You've got to look forward."

Nash, who said it was a "pleasure" to coach a "historic" player, added on the trade: "I think in the last hours, as the hours ticked by today, it seemed more apparent. 

"But you're never surprised. When I was asked those questions [about whether he would be traded], there was no conversation between the two teams."

The Nets have slid down the Eastern Conference standings and sit eighth as a result of their barren run.

But with the new additions, and Durant (sprained MCL), LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle), Joe Harris (ankle surgery) and Nic Claxton (left hamstring tightness) all to come back, Nash remains hopeful the Nets can get back on track. 

"Yeah, I think we always set our sights at that," Nash said. "We're excited by the pieces that are coming in. 

"Obviously, we're on a time crunch a little bit and getting everyone healthy, gaining some cohesion and building a team that can flow and play at both ends of the floor, but we're not taking our foot off the gas. 

"We want to try to build and reach for the stars and try to have a sense of urgency with this new addition."

Irving said he made no attempt to try and convince Harden to stay but added he wished his now former teammate well in his future endeavours.

"That's not really my place, in terms of trying to convince somebody of something that he probably can't see right now," Irving said. 

"James probably couldn't see what we were getting into. Obviously with my status being in and out, I saw a few things maybe that could have impacted things.

"But who knows, we got to wait for him - I can't really speak for James.

"I think we're also forgetting, too, where I've asked for a trade, and I understand it, so I'm not here to judge him. I'm not here to talk bad on James. 

"He has a great family, he's a great person. And I don't want to separate that fact from anything. I just really want him to be happy. I want everybody in this league to be happy."

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