James Harden might make Nets debut vs. struggling Magic
At his packed virtual press conference with nearly 100 attendees on Friday, James Harden described his physical condition as "great" and said the Brooklyn Nets' new "Big Three" were all willing to be unselfish.
The Nets will not see all three of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in action just yet, but it is possible Harden could make his debut Saturday night when Brooklyn hosts the Orlando Magic.
The Nets officially acquired Harden on Thursday in a massive trade that wound up sending Caris LeVert to the Indiana Pacers, Jarrett Allen to the Cleveland Cavaliers and four first-round picks to Houston, where Harden had grown unsatisfied with the team's direction.
Harden's situation with the Rockets came to a head Tuesday after a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers when he stated the team was not good enough to win a title. By Thursday, he was in Brooklyn.
"Depending on the game, depending on what's going on throughout the course of the game, that's going to determine who gets the ball and who makes the plays," Harden said of the Nets' trio of stars. "We're all unselfish, we're all willing passers and we play basketball the right way, and that's all that matters."
Harden is officially listed as questionable for Saturday because all players involved in the trade had not completed their physicals. If he does play, he would be in the starting lineup with Durant, his former teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2009-10 to 2011-12.
Irving will miss his sixth straight game due to personal reasons, and he was fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating health and safety protocols. He was seen on social media during his absence without a mask at an indoor family party. He joined Harden as the second player fined for violating the league's COVID-19 rules.
"Without a doubt, the organization's disappointed with not having any one of our players, in this particular case Kyrie, not amongst us, not in the trenches with us and so forth," general manager Sean Marks said Thursday.
The Nets have won two straight after getting dominated in the second half by the Thunder on Sunday. They followed a 122-116 home victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday by recording a 116-109 road win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Durant was instrumental in both wins, getting 34 points Tuesday, helping the Nets rallied from an 18-point deficit, and scoring 26 Wednesday.
"We really wanted this game tonight and everybody played like that," Durant said after the latter contest.
Durant enters his 10th game with Brooklyn averaging 29.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 53.7 percent shooting. His scoring average is his highest since he averaged 32 points for Oklahoma City in 2013-14, the last of the four seasons in which he was the NBA's scoring champion.
Orlando is on a four-game losing streak with each loss coming by double digits. During the skid, Orlando is averaging 96 points while allowing an average of 122 points.
The latest setback was a 124-97 defeat in Boston on Friday, when the Magic shot 40.4 percent. It was Orlando's fourth straight game where it shot under 45 percent and eighth instance overall.
The Friday defeat came after coach Steve Clifford noted that his team had its poorest morning walkthrough. The Magic also played without Evan Fournier for the seventh straight game due to lower back spasms.
"With the guys that are out right now, we're very much challenged offensively, which means we have to execute," Clifford said. "We have to play with purpose and we can't give possessions away."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 16, 2021