From the day he asked to be traded, James Harden preferred to go to Brooklyn.
His friend Kevin Durant recruiting him was certainly part of the decision, as was the chance to play in New York, but Harden said Mike D’Antoni — both leaving Houston and landing on Steve Nash’s staff in Brooklyn — played a role as well. Via Brian Lewis at the New York Post:
“[D’Antoni] was a part of it. Mike’s an unbelievable coach. He’s been doing it for a very, very long time. Obviously Mike is a factor. Being comfortable with him being comfortable with Kevin [Durant], knowing Kyrie [Irving], just those four pieces right there made it easy. Obviously them being in Brooklyn, for me it was a no-brainer.”
D’Antoni’s exit from Houston appeared a foregone conclusion from the time his contract negotiations with Houston’s owner and management fell apart before last season even started. Harden says D’Antoni’s exit, along with GM Daryl Morey leaving (and landing in Philadelphia), had him re-evaluating how committed Houston was to winning in the short term. That’s when he asked out.
Brooklyn was all-in before trading for Harden, now they have a window of a few years to chase that ring. Things looked good in Harden’s debut, where he looked comfortable and had a triple-double to lead Brooklyn past Orlando.
There’s a long way to go, but there is one coach now in D’Antoni on the Nets who understands how Harden ticks and what it takes to get through to him.