Nets

Harden Out to Change His Career Narrative in Brooklyn

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Now that the dust has settled, where do James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets stand in respect to championship contention?

Adding a player of Harden’s distinction to a team that already features Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant raises the brow of anyone who follows the NBA.

It was a move that generated more skepticism than it did fear, however.

The narrative clouding over Harden’s career coupled with the other players on this team will require sacrifice on the parts of all to make this trade work. Even so, regardless of the lack of appreciation Harden’s playstyle has generated over the years, there’s no debating his greatness. With Harden on board, it’s championship or bust, and with the stakes being what they are, the roster construction and how the trio of superstars fit together begs the attention of everyone around the league.

Everything To Lose, But So Much More To Gain

It’s trite but true — championships aren’t won on paper. Even if they were, the Nets roster as currently constructed leaves a lot to be desired. Before dealing for Harden, the Nets boasted a roster with as much depth as anyone in the league.

After all the roster maneuvering required to land the former MVP, the Nets had to roll out a lot of make-shift lineups. Given their depth, many members of the media, fans of the Nets, and former players didn’t understand why the Nets would bother pursuing Harden. And while the acquisition of The Beard provides Brooklyn with an embarrassment of riches in relation to star power, you can’t deny just how much the Nets gave up to make this trade work.

The pertinent particulars of trade are as follows— 

How The Nets Are Shaping Out Post Harden Deal

You don’t feature Harden, Irving and Durant and somehow step out of the limelight of championship predictions. While many still believe the Nets are plenty talented enough to raise a championship banner at Barclays this year, how Harden is fitting in with his new team still has the eye of many around the Association.

Harden’s Nets tenure began as storybook as can be, netting two 30-point triple-doubles in his first two games. Both contests were wins with one coming against Milwaukee. Brooklyn Nets General Manager, Sean Marks appeared to strike gold once again, but one thing was missing.

1/3 of the superstars. 1/3 of the scoring punch. 1/2 of the ball dominance. While Harden was dominating the box scores in his first two games, Kyrie was still away on his hiatus. The particulars of Kyrie’s absence were highlighted in a past article.

In Irving’s absence, Harden and KD flashed immediate success on the court even without practicing together yet. Considering their playstyle, the pairing is basketball nirvana. But when you add Kyrie to the mix, the fit begins to beg some questions.

Irving’s Message Often Lost in Translation

Dribble, Dribble, Dribble

Kyrie and Harden’s offensive exploits are both as revered as they are criticized. They are as talented with the ball in their hands as any individual who ever graced the hardwood.

Sounds like a great thing to have, except there is only one basketball. Here we have a situation where both players require the ball in their hands to be special. Then out on the wing, sprinting the floor, or down in the post is KD, a 7’0 offensive juggernaut who is averaging better than 30 points a game this year. How is it feasible that all three offensive talents get the touches they cemented their legacies on?

Sacrifice has been the watchword. It’s been the talk of many sports shows that Kyrie needs to respect the pecking order in order for this fit to work. Media members and even former basketball greats suggested that Kyrie needs to be an Alfred to KD’s Batman and Harden’s Robin.

Some Headlines Write Themselves

In Kyrie’s first game back, he led the team in shot attempts (28), doubling that of Harden’s (14). The Nets lost to a team many believe they should have easily outmatched. Two days later, the Nets played the same team and Kyrie led the team in shots again (24). KD was resting this time, but Harden was still passive, posting only 14 shot attempts.

As a result, the Nets found themselves on a two-game skid against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Without saying a word, the Nets superstars gave the media all the ammunition they needed to conjure up derailments to what many in Brooklyn hope is a parade on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue at the end of the season. And while box-score watching and Kyrie bashing is all the rage, watching the games provide more of an insight as to how the three superstars are gelling with one another. It may surprise a lot of people that Harden’s lack of attempts isn’t because of Kyrie, but because Harden is choosing to be this team’s facilitator first, second and third.

James Harden Is Changing The Narrative

James Harden to a fault is going out of his way to be this team’s point guard. The Beard has posted double-digit assists in every game he’s played for the Nets. Consequently, the bucket known as James who has led the league in scoring the past three years is now leading the league in assists for the second time in his career.

Before his arrival to Brooklyn, the narrative on Harden was as misguided as it was ridiculous. The jury was out and found him guilty of several basketball sins. The points he was scoring was shunned because of how he was scoring them. Fast-forward to present-day and you see the goalposts shifting rather quickly.

Watching Harden in Brooklyn has to give a lot of those who unfairly criticized his game some pause. As if maybe he wasn’t the thirsty, ego-driven scorer many pundits painted him out to be. Maybe he was the beneficiary of a system that exploited his offensive wizardry.

No matter the case, The Beard is now in act III of his NBA career. And from afar it may appear like his game is different, but this chapter isn’t about Harden redefining his relationship with Spalding. Rather, he’s showing the world that his offensive genius is not, nor was it ever limited to pounding the air out of the ball.

And who is the beneficiary of this version of Harden? Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and the 12 other players on the roster.

The Million-Dollar Question

So will the fit work? It depends on James, but if his Nets tenure has proven anything so far, it’s that he’s okay with taking a backseat in regards to shot attempts because he’s too busy being the engine that is keeping the offense afloat. It feels like forever ago that Cleveland beat this team in back-to-back games. Maybe the wins are outshining that dull moment in Harden’s tenure because after making the trade, the Nets are 8-2 and sitting in the driver seat in the Eastern Conference.

And while many are retracting their past subjectivities towards Harden, others are the least bit surprised with how he and the Nets are thriving. So here he sits on the precipice of potentially his first NBA title and the appreciation for the transcendent superstar he’s been for a while now.

Follow us on Twitter @NetsLead for the latest Nets news and insight. 

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