Feb 2, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) walks off the court during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s NBA trade deadline day, and things started off with a bang this morning thanks to a Woj tweet.

He wasn’t announcing any breaking deals, though; instead, Woj was tweeting about James Harden’s current thoughts on remaining in Brooklyn. Summed up: he doesn’t want to.

Harden, of course, isn’t wrong to assume there’d be public backlash to a formal trade request. After all, just last season he essentially spent the first part of the season with Houston trying to get fired, showing up out of shape and turning in on-court performances that would charitably be described as disinterested.

Harden was somewhat forgiven by everyone involved though because the Rockets were indeed a mess, and once he was shipped to the Nets the potential superteam storyline dominated the discourse. But after a strong series against Boston to open the postseason, Harden got hurt, missed three games of the series against the Bucks, and when he returned he was ineffective. Now, this year, he wants out again. This hasn’t quite been a Rockets level performance from Harden; he’s almost averaging a triple-double despite not shooting that well from three.

But things have still been bad, with more random “WTF?” moments than you’d like to see from a player who is supposed to be a superstar on a championship contender.

There are legitimate reasons for wanting out of Brooklyn, too! The entire Kyrie Irving situation has been a mess, Kevin Durant has continued to struggle with his health, and Brooklyn currently occupies a play-in game spot in the East. Playing with Joel Embiid probably has more appeal to Harden than trying to share the ball with Durant and Irving. But, again, he pushed his way to the Nets in the first place, and there’s no doubt a trade request would set off a massive wave of backlash.

You know what else will do that, though? Leaking to Woj that you want a trade but don’t want to ask for it.

Put another way:

Trying to split the difference here feels impossibly naïve from Harden and his camp, who had to have known that there’s not a whole lot of difference between making your desires known to one of the most prominent members of sports media and just asking the team for a trade. It almost might guarantee even more backlash; going internally to the front office first and directly might have been the best way to avoid backlash, if that’s indeed his main motivation. (Cynically, you could also read it as Harden making a calculated move to force his way to one specific destination by tanking all leverage the Nets might have with other teams.)

He might get what he wants; the NBA is weird, the Sixers are also motivated to try and find some kind of deal, and it’s quite possible the Nets would rather move on too, especially if they can get back other assets from Philadelphia in addition to (presumably) Ben Simmons.

But it’s just an impossibly bad misread of perception and how to use the media to protect your preferred narrative. You can almost hear Woj laughing as he put that particular tweet together.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.