James Harden joins Durant and Irving in Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of NBC Sports

James Harden joins Durant and Irving in Brooklyn
January 20
15:12 2021

After weeks of rumors, James Harden has finally made his way to the Brooklyn Nets. He will join former teammate Kevin Durant and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving on the team. The three superstars now come together to make the most formidable lineup in the Eastern Conference.

The Rockets received a pretty good haul of draft picks and players for Harden in the trade that included four teams total.  

Rockets get: Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, four unprotected first-round draft picks (Brooklyn 2022, 2024 and 2026, Milwaukee 2022) and four unprotected first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027)

Nets get: James Harden

Pacers get: Caris LeVert, 2023 second-round pick (from Houston)

Cavaliers get: Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince

The talk of Harden wanting out of Houston has been well documented since the beginning of the season. The Rockets traded All-Star guard Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 lottery-protected first-round draft pick. That move was not enough to appease Harden and the talk only got louder.

He came late to preseason workouts, came in overweight and genuinely seemed disinterested in playing for the Rockets from the start of the year. Once the season began, everyone on the planet could see that Harden was not playing the same. His effort was not what we are used to seeing and he looked as though his lackluster play was not bothering him.

Things came to the point of no return when he ripped the Rockets during a post game press conference after a 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last Tuesday. Based upon his recent play and his comments, he was basically saying he no longer wanted to be a part of the team.

“(We’re) just not good enough,” Harden said. “I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

I had to rewind the interview to make sure I heard him correctly. My thoughts then went to how his teammates were going to react. Before news of the trade became public, John Wall responded to the comments saying, “If we can all get on the same page, we can be something good here. We can’t dwell down on it because it’s only been nine games.  Come on, man. You’re going to jump off the cliff off of nine games? There’s a lot of basketball still to be played.”

Wall was not the only Rocket player that was offended by the comments made by Harden. Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins has never been one to bite his tongue.  

“The disrespect started way before any interview,” Cousins told reporters. “Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the antics off the court, the disrespect started way before, so this isn’t something that all of the sudden happened last night …”

The question for Harden and the Nets is how he will fit in with Durant and Irving. Since joining the Rockets in 2012, Harden has become the most ball dominant player in the league. I am not sure how that style of play will mesh with his other two star players.

As of right now, the Nets are without Irving since he has taken a leave of absence from the team. Irving has been playing well this season, averaging 27.1 points, 6.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but the problem is he has only played in seven of his team’s 13 games. His last game played was on Jan. 5 against the Utah Jazz.

According to multiple reports, Irving is not playing because of his feelings about the domestic terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. The team and several players have spoken to Irving; however, no one is giving any details on the issue.

“Ky’s still on personal leave, and all the communication with Ky between the organization, I’m going to keep private,” said Steve Nash, Nets head coach. I’m sure you’ll hear from him at some point.”

No one is sure if or when Irving will return to the team. I don’t think the acquisition of Harden was a backup plan, but if Irving does not return anytime soon, that’s one heck of a contingency plan. Barring something extreme, the three of them will have to get on the floor at some point in time to build some chemistry before they begin their playoff run.

With a shortened season, there will be more emphasis on the team being able to gel sooner, rather than later. I don’t think this move immediately makes them the favorites to win the NBA championship. I thought they were one of the top three teams in the east and with Durant, Irving and Harden they can probably win the Eastern Conference off of talent alone.

The Celtics, Buck and 76ers have all played well to start the year. I don’t think they have enough to beat the Nets in a seven-game series with all of their stars in place. I still don’t think they will have enough time to gel in time to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.

I love the fact that the players have more power than ever before, but situations like this just don’t sit right with me. I could see if the Rockets didn’t fulfill their part of the deal with Harden. The team bent over backwards to fill their roster with the players that Harden wanted. They have brought in several superstars over the last five years to complement Harden.

Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook have all been brought in to play alongside Harden and they all fell short of a championship. They never even made an NBA Finals appearance, mainly because of the play of Harden in the postseason.  

It bothers me that Harden all of a sudden now wants out after the team that has done everything they could do to make him happy. So, he pouts and doesn’t come into the season in shape and forces a trade. That’s not something you will ever see LeBron James do.  

With this new “Big Three,” you have to look back and compare them to previous teams who have tried to cobble three superstar players together. The Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers, Warriors and Heat are the teams that come to mind when you think about three superstars that were put together for championship runs over the last 20 years.

It worked out for some, but not for others.  Even when LeBron, Wade and Bosh connected in 2010 with the Heat, it took a season before they could figure out the pecking order of their superstar players. Once they got past that hurdle, they became champions.

I think it will take at least a season before the Nets will put it all together. It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. All I can say is, good luck Steve Nash. You’ll need it.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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