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Rockets’ James Harden could be Brooklyn-bound

Former MVP reportedly interested in joining Nets via trade

November 17, 2020 John Torenli
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Nets general manager Sean Marks shocked the NBA and most of the sporting world during the summer of 2019 when he lured both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn.

Could the executive be looking to add a third star to the Nets’ lineup as the 2020 NBA draft approaches?

Only time will tell.

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But rumor has it that former NBA Most Valuable Player and ex-Durant teammate James Harden of the Houston Rockets is seriously interested in turning Brooklyn’s dynamic duo into a terrifying triumvirate for opponents.

ESPN reported Sunday that Harden, the league’s 2018 MVP and an eight-time NBA All-Star, is considering being dealt out of Houston, where he has spent the past eight seasons, ultimately in vain, trying to win a championship.

With the Rockets having fired former head coach Mike D’Antoni, who is now one of Nets head coach Steve Nash’s top assistants, Harden is uncertain whether he can continue to chase his first ring in H-Town.

But teaming with Durant, whom he spent three seasons with in Oklahoma City, and Irving is apparently Harden’s most desirable landing spot if, of course, the Rockets decide to trade him with three years left on his lucrative contract.

The Nets, slated to pick 19th and 55th overall during the two rounds of the draft Thursday night, will likely have to send Houston either Caris LeVert or Spencer Dinwiddie, two of the top players the team has developed during the Marks regime, as well as current and future draft picks.

That may be asking a lot of Marks, who has spent his first four seasons on the job transforming the franchise from an afterthought to one of the hottest tickets in town, once the Nets return to playing regularly at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

But titles usually don’t come cheap, something Nets owner Joseph Tsai noted when asked earlier this year if he was willing to exceed the NBA’s salary cap to snag our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955.

“We know the fans expect us to win a championship … if we pay luxury tax, so be it.” he revealed. “And the good thing is I believe that we do have the pieces in place [to win a title].

“The fundamental pieces are in place to perhaps go all the way, so I’m absolutely comfortable that if we pay the luxury tax that’s fine,” he added.

One of those fundamental pieces is soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Joe Harris, whom the Nets can begin negotiating with two days after Thursday’s draft, but can’t sign until Nov. 22.

Harris could cost the Nets up to $12 million a season and Harden, who is owed upwards of $40 million next year, will easily push the Nets far past the league’s projected $109 million salary cap for the coming season, which is slated to tip off on Dec. 22.

Tsai is willing to pay the freight to turn Brooklyn into title town, but can Marks afford to have not two, but three mercurial superstars on one team in the hopes of eviscerating all the painful Nets moments of the past?

The 45-year-old New Zealander will have to weigh his options carefully when considering if bringing Harden here would create a one-star-too-many scenario, though Irving, an NBA champion with Cleveland in 2016, intimated earlier this season that Brooklyn likely needed a third star to win it all.

LeVert and/or Dinwiddie could also emerge as key pieces in the Brooklyn lineup alongside Durant and Irving, once the tandem takes the court together for the first time as Nets next month, without the Nets acquiring Harden.

Marks did reportedly make a much smaller deal this week, sending 2018 first-round pick Dzanan Musa and a 2021 second-rounder to Detroit for guard Bruce Brown, whom the Nets see as a strong option off the bench for next season.

Though the trade has not been made official due to the league’s moratorium on transactions, which will be lifted next Monday at noon, Marks is clearly shaping and honing his 2020-21 roster ahead of draft night, which could be one of the biggest in Nets history if Harden winds up in Brooklyn.

Until then, Nets fans will just have to wait to see if their two-pronged superstar attack turns into a three-headed monster prior to the most anticipated sporting campaign in modern Brooklyn sports history.

Center Jarrett Allen (left) has emerged as one of Nets general manager Sean Marks’ best draft-day decisions. Photo: Michael Noble Jr./AP

Nothing But Net: After hosting the draft for six consecutive years at Barclays Center, the Nets won’t have that opportunity Thursday as the entire event is being held virtually due to the ongoing COVID1-19 pandemic. … Marks has found some talent in the draft during his first four years at the helm, getting LeVert in 2016, center Jarrett Allen in 2017, Musa and Rodions Kurucs in 2018 and Nic Claxton last year.

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