The Harden Paradox

More options and avenues exist for employers and employees today. How much loyalty do they owe each other?


Not every relationship we live through in our lifetimes is going to end the way we'd like. From love to work to even family, every ending we experience won't be the storybook kind we desire. Recently, the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green went on a rant, unprompted, concerning how players are held to a double standard when it comes to asking for trades.



In it, he attacks the Cleveland Cavaliers for benching Andre Drummond before a game due to a planned trade, defends James Harden (although admitting he dogged it in Houston. This puts it lightly), and comes to the aid of Kyrie Irving, who skipped out on the Nets with no excuse other than "mental health". It's worth noting that Kyrie was seen clubbing mask-less at a birthday party during this hiatus. Harden showed up for camp late and attended clubs, also mask-less, and was noticeably lethargic on the court.


Are these players held to a double standard? Allow me a moment of hubris while I, a non-ultra-talented millionaire, tries to step into the shoes of one.


We're seeing a movement of players (and agents) determining their own future. The origin of the most recent iteration we can trace back to LeBron James and the decision in 2010, in which he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. And while the circumstances were different, LeBron at this time was an unrestricted free agent, it set the standard for using the massive media machine to shape the narrative. And, whether the fans would buy it or not, let you try to set the stage for how you would be viewed.


More recently, we are seeing players under max contracts force their way out whether the team is ready or not. James Harden, Anthony Davis, and in the NFL Deshaun Watson have all taken stances, through public statements and social media, that they are finished with their current circumstances and wish to move on.


Anthony Davis wears a "That's all Folks!" T-shirt at the end of his tenure in New Orleans

Harden was in the second year of a 4-year 171-million-dollar contract with the Houston Rockets when he decided he was finished with them. Notably after Houston had mortgaged their future in draft picks to pick up an aging Russell Westbrook did he decide he was finished. This was after they had mortgaged a nearer future to pick up Chris Paul. How much of this did James play a part in? It's hard to tell. But I find it hard to believe none of this happened without his go-ahead or advice.


How much does Harden owe the fans of Houston or the franchise? Is it anything at all? Is there a better way of doing it than showing up late and out of shape, torpedoing team chemistry by claiming the Rockets are "just not good enough", and terrible play on the court? Does Kyrie owe anything to the fans, organization, or even his teammates when he says "mental health" after disappearing off the map for a week or two?



Harden at the beginning of the season


To look at the other side of the coin, did Steve Ballmer and Clippers organization do right by Blake Griffin when they promised he would be a part of the future going forward after signing a 5-year 171-million-dollar deal and immediately traded him to the Detroit Pistons?


At work, we're often at the disposal of powers higher than us. Inconvenient moments and disappointments come with being a working adult. We can take a lot before we're fed up because we need a paycheck. And while I'm not an uber-talented athlete, I can appreciate the frustration for what seems like a double-standard for players wanting mobility without scrutiny like it's often afforded to the teams themselves.


I don't think any of the ways cited above are the correct way to go about engineering an exit. But I'm hard-pressed to think of a way to do it right. The best we can hope for is to be honest and forward about our intentions and feelings. Probably a lot of us, whenever we've decided we are fed up with an opportunity or encountering frustration at work, can check out and dog it for a month or two before something new.


The previous generation, like my dad, worked for places for 30 plus years. I don't think that environment exists for people my age. Mobility and opportunities are easier to come by and employers can feel disposable. But, keep in mind, it's a double-edged sword. Employers have many more options and can feel the shift and lack of emphasis on loyalty. We're seeing that in sports too, where players can feel like a stronger brand than the team they play for.


However, it's important that if you disapproved of the Harden exit in Houston, to keep in mind that's how it will look to others whenever you choose to dog it at work or in a relationship. People notice and remember your exits from tough spots. People like you and me have to weigh and balance our timing and methods of exits when we lack James Harden-like skills. It might not set us back now, but there is no telling if and when it will down the road.


Businesses and individuals alike have to decide what is best for them going forward. The best that we can do is try to end it the right way.


I'm finding it is a lot easier in theory.





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