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The shorthanded Brooklyn Nets fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, 106-96, continuing a disappointing stretch for the expected Eastern Conference powerhouse. They've now lost their last two games, and are 6-9 over their last 15 contests, which has them in third place in the East. 

Following the loss, James Harden admitted he was "frustrated" by how things are going, but denied reports that he's looking to leave Brooklyn. 

"I don't know about any reports," Harden said. "Of course I'm frustrated because we're not healthy, there's a lot of inconsistencies for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it's frustrating. I think everyone in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is, and we should be on the way up."

"That's all it is," Harden continued. "I don't know anything about any reports. If you didn't hear it from me, I don't talk to nobody. I have an agent. If you don't hear it from me, then it's reports, So I'm frustrated because I wanna win and I'm a competitor. It's pretty simple."

On Tuesday, prior to the Nets' matchup with the Lakers, a report from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report indicated Harden does not enjoy living in Brooklyn -- in part because of the weather and higher taxes -- and is not pleased with Kyrie Irving's part-time player set-up. Perhaps most notably, Harden is apparently intrigued by the idea of teaming up with Joel Embiid on the Philadelphia 76ers

Some of those frustrations might melt away if the team starts winning again, and our own Sam Quinn detailed why it would be extremely difficult for the Sixers to pull off a deal for Harden. But even if there's no imminent move in place, it's certainly worth taking note of Harden's reported discontent. He passed on the extension the Nets offered him this offseason, and could become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines his player option for the 2022-23 season. 

Since Harden arrived in Brooklyn, nothing has gone to plan. They were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season, and due injuries and COVID-19, the big three of Harden, Irving and Kevin Durant have still only played 16 games together. That number isn't going to increase any time soon, either. Durant is sidelined until after the All-Star break due to a knee injury, and Irving can only play in road games while he remains unvaccinated. Without his co-stars, Harden has been forced to try and carry the Nets by himself -- something he forced his way out of Houston to avoid. 

Harden is set to turn 33 in the summer, has still not won a title and likely only has one more mega contract coming his way. Given how the past year has gone, it makes perfect sense that he'd think long and hard about whether he wants to sign it in Brooklyn. From a strictly talent based perspective, playing alongside Durant and Irving presents a clear opportunity to win; the team is a dominant 13-3 when they share the court. But whether they'll ever be able to do so consistently remains to be seen, and whether the corresponding drama is worth the trouble is something Harden will have to consider. 

There's still a long time between now and the summer, when any serious decisions will have to be made. Feelings can change, and the Nets, despite all of their dysfunction, may still win it all. But if they don't (and perhaps even if they do), we just might see Harden wearing a different jersey next season.