One of the most noticeable ball-first guys in the league, Harden defied expectations in his Nets debut by being unselfish.
James Harden made his Brooklyn Nets debut on Saturday night against the Orlando Magic. He had the 47th triple-double of his career in this game: 32 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 STL, 1 BLK, .444 FG%, .300 3PT%, and .867 FT% in 39:47.
There were three primary concerns on Brooklyn’s end regarding the acquisition of Harden: the fact that the Nets would be sacrificing their depth on the bench in order to get him, his poor defense (the Nets were already a bad defensive team), and that his addition would result in a big three comprised of three on-ball players.
Brooklyn’s bench did take a hit as a result of the trade- the Nets were forced to say goodbye to Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, Caris LeVert, and Taurean Prince.
Harden has never been a good defender (usually because he doesn’t put much effort into that part of his game), but he did play respectable, energetic defense in his Brooklyn debut.
This is still a point of concern moving forward, but isn’t worth mentioning after Harden’s first game. The third concern, however, is a big one that has had the entire basketball world talking about.
Throughout his nine-year-career with the Houston Rockets, Harden grew to become one of the very best scorers as well as a top-15 player in the league, and even won an MVP. However, he did all this by being one of the most on-ball players in the entire NBA.
There were already questions surrounding the Nets when they signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving– two very on-ball players.
Would they be able to play with each other? Would either of them be willing to take a step back for the betterment of the team? If so, who? Just as we were beginning to solve these puzzles, the Nets added yet another ball-first player to the mix in Harden.
Irving has been out for several games and has yet to play with his newest teammate, but Durant was able to get a taste of what the future will be like with his old friend.
How did Harden do?
To begin with, the fact that several other Nets finished the game with points in the double-digits proves that Harden was unselfish in his debut. He didn’t even finish first in scoring, with Durant putting up 42 points.
His ability to draw the defense to him allowed sharpshooter Joe Harris to have multiple open looks.
This is something the Nets, and Harden, must take advantage of moving forward, especially against defenses that are unable to guard several big-threat players at once.
Many of Harden’s noteworthy plays came in the form of good passes to his teammates. He really did look like a different version of the guy we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing in Houston.
For the most part, everything worked out fine for the Nets in game one of the Harden-era. However, things will have to change for them yet again once they welcome Irving back, which could be as soon as Monday.
Harden has expressed excitement with regard to playing with Irving and believes team chemistry will be great, but this means that he will have to be even more unselfish than he was on Saturday. This is a big ask.
The coaches and players are going to expect their big three to change their play styles in order to give others a chance because that’s what needs to be done in order to win.
Are all three of them capable of doing that? Will it work? There’s also a chance that egos will be hurt in the process, but sacrifices must be made when the goal is to win a ring.
The Nets are hoping that this works out or this team will truly end up being one of the greatest disasters in NBA history.