Jazz fans got some good news on Wednesday, and their team didn’t even play.
The Houston Rockets have traded James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
That means they don’t have to watch the bearded swingman flop all over the Vivint Arena hardwood multiple times every season. Instead, it will only happen once, given that the Nets are in the Eastern Conference. If they have to see Harden any more than that, it will be a good sign because that means the Jazz are in the NBA Finals.
In recent years, no opposing player has drawn Jazz fans’ ire more than Harden. His style is infuriating, unless he’s on your team. He brings the game to a halt with his ability to “draw” fouls — also known as going down to the floor if someone so much as breathes on him — and spends way more time at the free-throw line than is justified. Throw in the fact that he’s one-dimensional, and it makes him quite possibly the league’s least-enjoyable superstar.
Can you imagine Harden’s lackadaisical form of “defense” on a team coached by Quin Snyder? Or a team that has been renowned for its physical play and attention to detail on the defensive end since the days of Jerry Sloan? Jazz fans would never stand for it on their team, and they hate watching it from players on other squads.
So, as a Western Conference basketball fan: good riddance to Harden. Not that it would have made much of a difference in the Western Conference race had he stayed in Houston. The Rockets are, quite simply, awful. But at least a pairing of Victor Oladipo and John Wall will be more aesthetically pleasing to the casual fan.
However, if you’re a basketball fan, the presence of Harden in Brooklyn just turned you into a huge Milwaukee Bucks or Miami Heat fan. The only players who might come close to Harden in terms of obnoxiousness in recent years are Kevin Durant (known for winning championships by joining an existing superteam with the Warriors) and Kyrie Irving (known for believing the Earth is flat). And now, they’ve added Harden to that group.
Give me Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jimmy Butler any day.
At least in the West, Jazz fans have opposing superstars they can appreciate, now. Say what you will about LeBron James and his Durant-like tendency to join superteams, but he also once dragged a below-average Cavaliers team to the Finals before his days with the Heat. His teammate, Anthony Davis, is a treat to watch.
You have dynamic duos in Dallas (Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis), Portland (Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum) and Denver (Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray), as well as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard with the Clippers. Any of those pairings against Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert makes for must-see TV.
Full disclosure: I’m not a Jazz fan. Never have been. Never will be. But I know good basketball when I see it, and Mitchell and Gobert are among the very best in the league. They’re on my list of must-watch games whenever they’re on TV.
James Harden, for all his gaudy statistics and the accolades he’s racked up over the years, is not. When my team was rumored to be in the running for his services, I hoped they would pass on the opportunity. I’m glad they did.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Like Jazz fans, he, too, knows the pain of rooting for a small-market NBA team. Email him at email@example.com.