Report: James Harden's Lack of Conditioning to Start Season 'Astonished' Kevin Durant

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVApril 12, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 2: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 2, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets traded James Harden in February, but a divide had reportedly been brewing between the guard and Kevin Durant since September.

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, the "discontent" between the two began when Harden showed up to training camp out of shape. Things didn't improve after a slow start to the 2021-22 season.

"Durant was astonished in the opening weeks of the season at Harden's lack of explosiveness and sluggish play, something he attributed in large part to Harden's being out of shape, as he did the ensuing hamstring issues," Arnovitz reported Tuesday.

Harden averaged just 18.6 points per game in October, shooting 39.8 percent from the field across seven games.

The All-Star eventually found his footing. But consistency remained an issue, and he averaged just 22.5 points per game during his 44 games in Brooklyn this season. It was a far cry from the player who won three straight scoring titles with the Houston Rockets, averaging 33.7 points per game from 2017 to '20.

Hamstring issues also kept him off the court in January and February, hurting a team that was already without Durant because of a knee injury. Kyrie Irving was also not playing in home games at the time because of his COVID-19 vaccination status.

"With each passing week, Harden became more isolated, with staff and teammates increasingly frustrated by the static," Arnovitz reported.

The Nets eventually sent Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal that brought back Ben Simmons, who has yet to suit up for Brooklyn.

Harden ended up only playing 80 regular-season games with the Nets, plus nine in the playoffs. Brooklyn didn't advance past the second round.