Done Deal: James Harden is Brooklyn-bound
Nets acquire former MVP Harden before beating Knicks
The Brooklyn Nets found a way to knock Kyrie Irving’s ongoing unexplained absence off the sports pages Wednesday night.
They just had to acquire a third superstar to do so.
After flirting with the possibility for the past several months, Brooklyn reportedly acquired Houston Rockets scoring machine and former NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden shortly before tip-off against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
With Irving missing a fifth consecutive game for reasons unbeknownst to most and fellow superstar Kevin Durant playing his first back-to-back contests since returning from an Achilles tear, you would think Brooklyn basketball fanatics would have enough to keep them occupied.
Instead, Nets general manager Sean Marks, who acquired Durant and Irving two summers ago in the hopes of leading this franchise to its first-ever NBA title, gave his fervent but home-bound fan base something to gush over.
The Nets made a mega-deal for the player that has been clamoring to come to Brooklyn and form an historic triumvirate with Durant and Irving since the NBA’s bubble season ended last October.
Unfortunately, it cost the Nets plenty, both now and going forward.
Brooklyn reportedly lost up-and-coming center Jarrett Allen, versatile point guard Caris LeVert, veteran forward Taurean Prince and former Marks draft pick Rodions Kurucs in the swap, which also involved the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.
Perhaps most daunting for Marks is that he had to abandon the team’s first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, as well as handing the Rockets the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027.
That means Durant, Irving and the soon-to-arrive Harden are officially on the clock to deliver our borough’s first major pro sports title since the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers or suffer the indignity of forming a high-priced, top-heavy team that winds up getting more headlines than championship hardware.
Durant made sure to end the hectic night on a high note, pacing seven Brooklyn players in double figures in scoring with a team-high 26 points to go with six assists and two blocked shots in 30 minutes as the Nets blew past the Knicks, 116-109, for their second consecutive victory.
“I don’t think there’s any drama or chaos,” Durant said when asked about the Irving situation and Harden’s potential arrival during a post-game interview.
“We came out here and played together.”
They certainly did.
Brooklyn, which only had nine players available following the trade, showed off some of its depth as Bruce Brown and Joe Harris (15 points apiece) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Landry Shamet (13 points each), did more than enough to support the team’s lone available star.
Rookie Reggie Perry and veteran Jeff Green added 11 points apiece for Brooklyn, which will shoot for a season-high third straight win Saturday against the visiting Orlando Magic, albeit without Irving, who has already been ruled out for that contest.
Harden may be in Brooklyn as soon as this weekend, but whether he will participate against the Magic is still up in the air as the team had not yet officially announced the trade at press time.
Whenever he does get here, “The Beard”, as he is most famously known, will have to adjust his high-scoring game and his ego to fit in with Brooklyn’s newly formed Big Three.
Otherwise, the off-the-court distractions will continue for these Nets as they push toward their ultimate goal.
“Tonight we had to focus on the task at hand and that was getting the (win),” said Green.
Rookie head coach Steven Nash believes his team has what it takes to deal with carrying three of the best 10 players in the sport while shuffling his platoon of role players in and out of the lineup around them, even if he can’t officially comment on Harden’s arrival just yet.
“I think basketball is about playing together and being the best you can be. So, no matter who you are, it’s about finding connectivity and balance within a team and trying to be greater than the sum of your parts,” he said before Wednesday’s tilt at the Garden.
“So, that doesn’t change no matter what your team looks like, and that’s definitely a goal and a thread of our team from Day One.”
Nothing But Net: Durant, who scored at least 20 points for a team record ninth consecutive game to begin his career in Brooklyn, played with Harden in Oklahoma City earlier in his career. Green was Harden’s teammate in Houston as well. … Following their visit from Orlando on Saturday, the Nets will also host Milwaukee at the still-fanless Barclays Center next Monday.
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