Raptors influenced James Harden’s decision to leave Nets

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors had to be nervous about the prospect of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving all teaming up on the division rival Brooklyn Nets given their legendary scoring power. Luckily for Toronto, internal strife, injuries, and vaccine foolishness from Irving led to a trade demand from Harden.

While the Nets did manage to get Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond back from the 76ers along with multiple first-round picks in the trade, it broke up their superstar trio. Despite all of the fear they instilled in Atlantic foes like Toronto, the group managed to play a minuscule 16 games together.

One of the more commonly held beliefs as to why Harden suddenly wanted out was friction with Irving, who is only allowed to play in road games due to New York City’s vaccine mandate. As unusual as it may sound, Harden was intimidated by the idea of facing the Raptors in the postseason without Kyrie.

Per SNY’s Ian Begley, Harden was nervous about the prospect of playing the Raptors in the play-in tournament. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, Irving would not be eligible to play in either Toronto or Brooklyn. It appears as if the Raptors and Canadian government played a role in forcing Harden out of Brooklyn.

James Harden was nervous about playing the Toronto Raptors.

Can you really blame Harden for being worried about this? Considering Brooklyn’s tight financial situation and the fact they would have to enter the playoffs without one of the best players in the league, looking for a more stable setup in Philadelphia makes a ton of sense.

Because of the COVID-19 guidelines set up in Canada and New York City, Irving remains ineligible to play road games against Knicks and Raptors. While Patty Mills is a terrific backup point guard, the drop-off in offensive skill from him to Irving is night and day.

The Raptors went 2-2 this season against the Nets, though none of these games had all three of Brooklyn’s superstars available. Considering that Toronto beat Brooklyn by 36 points and took them to overtime on the road despite a depleted roster, perhaps Harden’s fears were justified.

We may never know the truth about what forced Harden out of town, as Brooklyn would’ve been a contender the second that Durant returned to the lineup alongside Harden. While Simmons and Curry are solid additions, the Raptors have to be thankful they won’t get to face the “Scary Hours” Nets in the future.

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