No practice, no problem. James Harden’s debut for the Brooklyn Nets has given a tantalising glimpse of the team’s NBA potential this season.
Harden had no time to work out with his new teammates but didn’t need it, becoming the first player in franchise history to have a triple-double in his debut as he delivered 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in a 122-115 home victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
Fellow superstar Kevin Durant scored a season-high 42 points in his first game back alongside his former Oklahoma Thunder teammate and the Nets may still go up another gear when Kyrie Irving rejoins them.
Irving missed his sixth straight game after leaving the team last week for personal reasons.
“The sooner we can be on the court together, it’s going to be scary hours,” said Harden, who also committed nine turnovers.
Harden had been cleared to play earlier in the afternoon when all the players in the blockbuster trade that brought him from Houston had completed their physicals.
Durant made five 3-pointers in his 10th game back following an 18-month layoff after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals. He hiked his average to 30.7 points, which would be his highest since he scored a league-leading 32 per game and won NBA MVP honours for Oklahoma City in 2014.
That was a couple years after he and Durant helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals.
The Nets (8-6) are sitting fifth in the eastern conference and coach Steve Nash isn’t daunted by the task of getting his three superstars all working together.
“I think it’s going to be an adjustment for everyone, but it’s an incredible problem to have and something I think we’ll relish trying to decipher,” Nash said.
Nash said Irving was hopefully close to returning, but said no date has been determined.
The Nets are closing on Ben Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers who slipped to a 9-5 season record in a 106-104 away loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Australian Simmons fell just short of a triple-double with 11 points, a season- high 16 rebounds and nine assists in a 76ers team still without star centre Joel Embiid (knee pain). They are 0-3 without Embiid this season.
Meanwhile, the undermanned Houston Rockets fell to a 103-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their first match since Harden’s departure.
Houston was on the brink of not having eight players available as required by the league, but met the minimum in the final hour.
Australian Dante Exum, one of three players acquired by the Rockets in the blockbuster Harden trade, was not available to play.
Veteran countryman Patty Mills had 11 points for the Spurs who were led by DeMar DeRozan with 24 points and Dejounte Murray who had 18 points and 10 rebounds.