James Harden calls Philadelphia his ‘first choice’ after Nets trade

James Harden

A little after Ben Simmons wrapped up his introductory press conference at the Nets practice facility in Brooklyn, James Harden made his way to the dais in Philadelphia. It was The Beard’s first public comments since the blockbuster deal occurred last Thursday that sent Simmons and Harden to rival cities.

While Harden didn’t make any over-the-top comments or criticisms about his exit from Brooklyn, there was still a lot that was said and left unsaid by the now-former Nets superstar.

Harden avoided too many specifics about what led him to want to leave the Nets, but did clarify that Kyrie Irving’s unvaccinated status played a part in it. Irving hasn’t been able to play games at home because he hasn’t taken the COVID-19 vaccine, which is required under New York City mandates.

“Very minimal. Honestly, me and Kyrie are really good friends,” Harden said when asked how much it impacted his decision. “Whatever he was going through or still going through, that’s his personal preference. But it definitely did impact the team because me, Kyrie, and KD on the court and winning covers up a lot of that stuff. It was unfortunate that we played 16 games out of whatever it was, but it is what it is.”

Reports had surfaced as his tenure in Brooklyn came to a quick end that Harden had grown frustrated with Irving’s unvaccinated status, which prevented him from playing any games at Barclays Center. That was again pointed to as a  point of contention for Harden in a report published on Tuesday by Bleacher Report.

Since mid-January growing murmurs around the NBA had pointed to unhappiness from Harden and a growing belief Philadelphia would be able to snatch him from Brooklyn in the offseason. The 76ers had been one of the finalists to get Harden last year in a trade, but it was believed that he ultimately chose the Nets.

Harden appeared to dispute that on Tuesday, calling Philadelphia his top choice to have gone to originally.

“When I was going through everything I was going through in Houston, Philly was my first choice,” he said. “It just didn’t happen. Just details I don’t really want to get into with the Brooklyn situation. I just knew for a very long time that this was a perfect fit. We have the best big man in the league in Joel. The coaching, just top to bottom, it made sense.”

In a follow-up question, Harden was pressed why if Philadelphia was his first choice did he not end up there originally since he had the option where to go.

“I wish it worked like that,” Harden said. “But organizations have to do what’s best for their team, present and future. It didn’t work like that and I had to go to Brooklyn, which obviously we all know that could have been something special, but whatever reason was for that. So here I am today.”