Get ready for more of this, Nets fans
James Harden was never the most popular player in the NBA—criticized for his sometimes-ugly style of play that relies on drawing fouls—but now he’s forfeited any remaining goodwill after his breakup with the Rockets. And Thursday night Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal added themselves to the list of pundits fed up with Harden.
On Inside the NBA, Shaq and Chuck laid into Harden for failing to work with what he was given in Houston and questioning how the Nets’ new three-headed monster will be able to work together.
“When you say you gave the city your all, that ain’t true,” Shaq said. “You asked for Dwight Howard. We gave him to you. It didn’t work out. You asked for Chris Paul. We gave him to you. You asked for some shooters. We gave it to you. You asked for [Russell] Westbrook, your homeboy from little league, we gave him to you. It didn’t work out. When you say, 'I gave you everything,' I say, 'No, you didn’t.' ”
Shaq then rattled off Harden’s stats from the Rockets’ last five elimination games to illustrate that Houston’s lack of success isn’t on his supporting cast.
“I used to be like James,” O’Neal continued. “I used to come home and complain and my father, rest in peace, Sgt. Phillip Harrison, used to say, ‘Well what the hell did you do?’ He ain’t do nothing. He ain’t step up when he was supposed to step up. … I know a lot of people in Houston who are glad he’s gone.”
Shaq concluded that Harden and the Nets need to win a title this year to make this move worth it.
“He’s got his little superteam,” O’Neal said. “He’s got to win this year. If he don’t win this year, it’s a bust. Period.”
To that point, Barkley didn’t see a future in which Brooklyn’s new Big Three works together harmoniously.
“The only one of those three guys who has proven to me that he’s not selfish and not a ‘me’ guy is KD,” Chuck said. “KD went to Golden State and he sacrificed. James Harden and Kyrie Irving have never shown me, ‘I just want to win. That's the most important thing.’ You’ve got one guy, KD, he’s unselfish. The other two guys, they just care about their numbers, and I don’t think they’re going to make the sacrifice. They’re going to get less shots. Are those two guys going to say, I’m just going to say, ‘You know what, I’m just going to play hard and play defense and not worry about my individual numbers’? To me, that’s a hell, no.”
Barkley is the funniest guy on that show, so it’s easy to forget that he can sometimes be kind of cranky. His qualms about the Nets’ new trio chasing stats and not wanting to play hard defense sound like the standard whining about the modern NBA that you hear from people of a certain age. But maybe he’s got a point! Durant not only coexisted with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, he thrived. Kyrie has experience sharing the court with one other star player (LeBron), just like Harden does (with Chris Paul and later Russell Westbrook), but being the third option is a much different experience for a player of that caliber from being the second.
The NBA is a narrative-driven league, and the Nets are about to be the main characters of its story. Between Irving’s continued absence from the team and the acquisition of Harden, all eyes are going to be on Brooklyn for the next five months. There are going to be lots of criticisms and lots of jokes, like the one Barkley made to close out the segment: “KD went from the Splash Brothers to the Dribble Brothers.”
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