With the future of Kyrie Irving very much in question with the Nets, it’s fair to wonder how this whole thing affects James Harden.

When Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving first signed with the Nets back in summer of 2019, no doubt the plan was to set up shop in Brooklyn and win some rings.

It’s possible the Nets started to detect a lack of commitment from Irving over time. Recall, Irving was reportedly healthy but not available to play back in January last season. The team was openly disappointed in him for that. Was it a total coincidence that they traded the farm to bring in James Harden within a couple of weeks of Irving’s (seemingly) unexplained absence?

Harden’s mere presence on the team has at times felt like some first-ballot Hall-of-Fame-caliber insurance against Irving going AWOL. This is not to suggest the team wouldn’t have done anything and everything to bring him in anyway. But would they have been quite as motivated to do so if Irving had been more available to the team in the days leading up to that blockbuster? Who knows. One thing we can be sure of, Irving is not a player the Nets can rely on to play ball. And that’s a problem.

Let’s look at two ways his absence may impact James Harden on the 2022 Nets.