After a blockbuster industry ended his Rockets tenure and landed him with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, Harden, now 31, sought to make a unique first influence in his Nets debut. As a substitute of opening the recent generation with a signature scoring outburst, Harden regarded to proportion the ball early and ceaselessly, in all probability hoping to endear himself to his new teammates and alter the topic from his messy go out in Houston.
Harden completed with 32 issues, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in Brooklyn’s 122-115 house victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night time. The competition lacked the pomp and circumstance you may be expecting from a celebrity’s midseason arrival. There have been no enthusiasts at Barclays Middle to greet him with a thunderous ovation; there was once no nationwide tv broadcast to magnify the development; and there was once no Irving, who’s in quarantine after he violated the NBA’s coronavirus protocols via attending a party with no masks.
Regardless of the ones demanding situations, Harden got to work repairing his recognition straight away: He dished plenty of high-level assists within the first quarter, didn’t make his first basket till early in the second one, and performed with power and concentrate on protection. He whipped passes to Durant, who completed with a season-high 42 issues. He aggressively used excessive monitors, in search of his large males after they rolled to the basket. And he fed sharpshooter Joe Harris for a first-half flurry.
“I’m a hooper,” Harden mentioned. “I’m keen to do no matter it takes to win. KD is simply an elite, other form of basketball participant, the way in which he’s in a position to attain the basketball. It’s really easy for him, and I do know that. I wish to make it a little bit bit more uncomplicated if I will be able to. It was once simple available in the market. I’ve such a lot of dimensions to my sport. I take regardless of the protection offers me.”
If the rest, Harden, whose disruptive and self-serving habits over the last two months sparked quite a lot of grievance, was once overly deferential. Early on, he attempted to string the ball via site visitors reasonably than assault the ring, gathering 9 turnovers via the tip of the night time. Harden adjusted within the fourth quarter, getting extra competitive and serving to to position away the win from the loose throw line.
“I had 9 turnovers, and 6 or seven of them have been having a look to get guys lobs,” he mentioned. “That’s me being unselfish.”
The triple-double debut was once a reminder that Harden has lengthy been some of the NBA’s best playmakers for his teammates. A 3-time scoring champ, he led the league in assists in 2016-17 and has a deep bag of methods. Some of the largest questions dealing with the new-look Nets is whether or not Harden can go away at the back of the ball-pounding, isolation-heavy taste he become related to past due in his Rockets tenure in prefer of a extra free-flowing and balanced assault. Harden’s first sport with the Nets might be learn as a sign of his willingness to regulate and as proof of his versatility.
Durant, Harden and Irving are all implausible scorers, however Harden is definitely probably the most professional and inventive passer of the 3. His first sport integrated a jaw-dropping vary of dimes: a behind-the-back toss to Jeff Inexperienced for a jumper on the best of the important thing, an over-the-shoulder move to Harris for a layup, a lofted toss-ahead to Inexperienced for a flying end, a well-paced in finding of a rolling Reggie Perry in site visitors, and a drive-and-kick to Durant for a snatch 3, amongst many others.
“Trainer put [Harden] on the level,” Durant mentioned. “I feel that’s his herbal place, to be fair.”
Certainly, the duty to stay everybody glad on offense will fall in large part to Harden and new trainer Steve Nash, and Saturday was once a promising get started on that entrance. Nash hailed his new celebrity as a “sensible” and “world-class” participant with the prospective to guide an offense the place “everyone is a risk.”
Harden and Durant struck a herbal chemistry in pick-and-roll situations, and defenses will wish to come to a decision whether or not to ship assist to prevent their two-man sport. When Orlando performed Brooklyn’s stars instantly up, Harden drew a whole lot of consideration and made fast reads, permitting Durant to dinner party on open seems to be and one-on-one assaults. Irving must revel in the similar alternatives when he returns, and Harden joked that it might be “horrifying hours” for fighters as soon as the Nets’ celebrity trio was once absolutely assembled.
Skeptics will wonder whether Harden will be capable to stick with this new script or if he’ll go back to his Houston behavior because the season unfolds. Harden known as himself “an elite scorer, an elite teammate, an elite chief” right through his introductory information convention, a self-assessment that drew guffaws for the reason that he confirmed as much as coaching camp past due and advised journalists Tuesday that the Rockets have been “now not excellent sufficient” to compete for a name and that their scenario “can’t be fastened.”
Earlier marriages between Harden and Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook fell aside, partly as a result of Harden ultimately determined he most well-liked to play on his personal phrases. This model of Durant is definitely the most productive teammate Harden has ever performed with, and the 2 have a historical past that dates to 3 years in combination in Oklahoma Town. Hanging a stability between Harden and Irving may just turn out trickier, and each will wish to sacrifice in techniques they haven’t prior to now for Brooklyn to succeed in its complete doable. And Durant, Harden and Irving will wish to elevate their video games defensively to catch up on a skinny entrance line.
The total Nets revel in can be on show when Irving returns, perhaps as early as Monday in opposition to the Milwaukee Dollars. Saturday’s win, then, must be remembered as a a hit cushy release that left its polarizing protagonist beaming.
“It felt improbable,” Harden mentioned. “With a bit of luck you’ll be able to inform via my smile and my play.”