James Harden may burn down risky Nets


Hearth, meet kerosene.

That’s what the Brooklyn Nets appeared to have accomplished within the acquisition of James Harden, in what already seems like a risky, if not fragile, state of affairs.

Harden doing his finest to be Professor Sherman Klump in his escape from Houston will largely be forgotten if he reclaims his regular-season status as an explosive scorer, a stink that gained’t observe him till the playoffs — the place that historic stench gained’t flip rosy so simply.

James Harden puts his hands up in shock as he argues a call.
James Harden acquired his want to be traded from the Houston Rockets, however now joins a risky Brooklyn Nets group. (AP Picture/Mark J. Terrill)

As funky as it might be, gamers performing up in attempting to get out of their conditions might be remedied by on-floor excellence. It’s exhausting to consider Jimmy Butler within the context of the hilarity in Minnesota or the instability in Philadelphia, or the turmoil Anthony Davis prompted in New Orleans.

The sheen of the Finals erases the main points, however on this case it’s exhausting to see this group as constructed getting there, a lot much less overtaking who comes out of the West. Having two nice soloists in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving was all the time a difficult proposition, however including the final word “me” participant — not in abject selfishness however in tunnel imaginative and prescient — appears to be an excessive amount of for both to deal with, or the Nets’ still-developing basis.

The most effective truth about this commerce may very well be finest described as the very best protection may be a very good offense — in each sense. Holding Harden away from the Philadelphia 76ers might be the most important win, as a result of it appears he would match completely subsequent to a freakishly scary Joel Embiid.

As an alternative, this commerce feels scary for Steve Nash, who abruptly has to get three gamers who focus on being in their very own heads to subjugate themselves for a better good when that has by no means appeared sufficient.

Durant and Irving appeared to embrace one another as a result of they had been overshadowed by franchise beacons of their respective cities, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. It feels just like the Nets are nonetheless in quest of that beacon, as a result of for as noble as Irving’s civic intentions may very well be, he’s unreliable for a franchise to depend on.

Durant is the closest factor to what the Nets want him to be, and whereas he’s trying each bit just like the participant who was basketball’s finest earlier than his Achilles harm, having him be navigator and therapist for Irving and Harden is an excessive amount of weight to hold on these skinny legs.

Organizational and on-floor stability win within the NBA, particularly in such an unconventional season that may name for path, self-discipline and common sanity over the following a number of months. The Jackson 5 might solely have one Michael, and barely one at that.

For all its perceived greatness, two would’ve been disastrous.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant look down the court during a game.
Kyrie Irving, left, and Kevin Durant had simply began to determine the way to coexist when Irving left the group for private causes final week. (Sarah Stier/Getty Photos)

Pecking orders are actual, and the ability constructions inside ego-driven, aggressive basketball gamers usually are not figments of creativeness, which calls for somebody to sacrifice — as a 3rd possibility.

Durant is the final word system participant, as in he can thrive inside or exterior of any system. A lot so, you’re taking as a right the items round him and the way they match as a result of he exists so simply subsequent to anybody.

Who willingly does that, particularly if Irving has behaved like a person who’s been empowered as a result of he introduced Durant with him in free company? Assuming he comes again in some unspecified time in the future, he’d should go to the trunk as a substitute of the again seat and it’s exhausting to see that taking place with out kicking, screaming and disruption.

Dwyane Wade knew the way to navigate the on-court relationship with LeBron James as a result of he’d accomplished it with Shaquille O’Neal — albeit another way — however he additionally sacrificed for Chris Bosh, too, due to the connective tissue between the 2.

Durant is the tangible connective tissue.

Durant can also be why we’re right here. He’s why this group issues and bringing out the very best in him must be the primary consideration, if not the one one.

His greatness and better-than-expected restoration referred to as for a transfer of this caliber, even when this specific one wasn’t the very best. On its face, the commerce was one in all extra and didn’t fill basic wants of again line assist. In some unspecified time in the future, the Nets will notice they’ll want greater than DeAndre Jordan again there and championship groups have to make defensive stops even when they rating 130 an evening.

A wholesome Durant means his employer has a duty to go all-in for a hoop, one which the Nets had no downside inheriting, despite the fact that they mortgaged all the things of their future to get from Baltic Avenue on the best way to Park Place — hoping they gained’t be put in roster jail alongside the best way.

It’s what the Rockets did with Harden, after they swapped out gamers, coaches and kinds as soon as realizing he was an distinctive expertise. However Harden has appeared to lack the accountability that comes with being in cost, at the same time as his drive of will acquired Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook despatched to components unknown.

There’s an assumption he realized he wasn’t match to be the principle headliner, illustrated by his listing of groups that already had gamers he wouldn’t supersede on the marquee or within the blame sport if issues fail.

James Harden and Kevin Durant watch on from the bench during the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.
James Harden, left, comes right into a Kevin Durant-led Nets group as a substitute of being the headliner of his personal group. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Photos)

However he’s but to indicate it on the ground, and pointing to what he did as a youthful, a lot much less achieved participant is a leap too far to make till it’s seen.

Normally a commerce of this nature solutions extra questions than it asks: It charts the futures of groups, defines the current of others and typically establishes a hierarchy by clearing the decks or including an ideal complementary participant.

These questions had been higher answered by the opposite three groups than the headliner on this, a Brooklyn Nets squad that has champagne desires. This commerce couldn’t have answered its greatest query, in regards to the whereabouts and psychological state of Irving — dazzling at his finest, puzzling at his most constant.

He hasn’t been heard from regardless of being noticed in public locations with no masks or on Zoom requires politicians.

One govt mentioned this might cement Irving’s return as a result of “this transfer reveals they’ll win with out him,” given Harden is a bona fide scorer assuming he sheds the surplus weight and reclaims his ordinary standing close to the highest of the leaderboard.

However whether or not the transfer serves as Kyrie insurance coverage or merely the price of doing enterprise within the big-boy NBA, they’ve dedicated to gamers with reputations of being flighty with out a lot of a parachute.

This trio can blow up the NBA — or blow up in one another’s faces.

Hearth, meet kerosene.

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