5 points face Nets as they search for second-half title push

The Nets enter the All-Star break 24-13, only a half-game from first place within the Japanese Convention, and with the third-best mark of their historical past.

However after finishing a profitable first half of the season, there are many inquiries to be answered to have a greater second half. In any case, when GM Sean Marks added James Harden to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he was pushing the chips into the center of the desk, with the pot an NBA title.

“I believe everyone knows what our final aim is right here, and we’re not going to shrink back from that,” Marks stated on YES Community. “So it’s a terrific problem and nice alternative.”

Their odds of getting there could relaxation on how they reply these questions:

How is KD?

Durant has sat out 18 video games already, about half of the schedule. He missed the final 9 with a hamstring harm, with one other spherical of imaging slated across the time of their March 11 return vs. Boston.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden
Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden
Getty Photographs (3)

Nonetheless, after an 18-month layoff for Achilles surgical procedure, the Nets will cautiously play the lengthy recreation.

“We are able to positively enhance,” coach Steve Nash stated. “Kevin Durant is likely one of the all-time greats, so so as to add him to our staff will make us higher robotically.”

Get the Large Three collectively

Between Harden’s Jan. 16 arrival, Durant’s hamstring and two weeklong contact tracing quarantines, and Irving’s prolonged private depart, that Large Three has in some way nonetheless solely logged 186 minutes collectively.

Brooklyn’s 5-1 document with them beginning — and a strong 16-Three mark with even two of them within the lineup — augurs effectively. However whereas Harden is an ironman, the Nets must preserve Durant and the oft-injured Irving match.

“We simply didn’t have a ton of time collectively early on,” Joe Harris stated. “It wasn’t like James and a whole lot of the fellows on the roster have been right here originally of the season. There’s been a whole lot of shake-up over the course of the season. However we’re beginning to get to some extent the place issues are solidified, and also you’re beginning to see it on the court docket.”

That protection

Worries over their protection are nonetheless legitimate, particularly with each scene of a blown swap or DeAndre Jordan being late to shut out.

Even the season’s first half needs to be divvied up into three components. The primary was earlier than the Jan. 16 Harden commerce, when Jarrett Allen anchored a serviceable protection. Then got here the primary 13 video games after Harden’s arrival, when the Nets struggled at 7-6 with the league’s worst Defensive Score (119.4).

However from a humbling Feb. 9 loss in Detroit on, the Nets closed the primary half a league-best 10-1 run and 18th-ranked Defensive Score.

“We all know what we’re making an attempt to perform, and we all know our positioning on the court docket on each ends of the ball,” Harden stated.

Added Harris: “We’re making an attempt to study on the fly within the video games. However we’re actually beginning to jell now.”

Harden’s MVP candidacy

Bruce Brown stumped for Harden as MVP, and it’s neither farfetched nor shocking. The three-time scoring champ completed second, first, second and third in MVP voting the previous 4 years, and has put himself again within the race.

Brooklyn is 17-6 when Harden has performed and simply 7-6 when he hasn’t. He’s averaging 25.5 factors, 8.7 boards and a league-high 11.Four assists for the Nets, sacrificing pictures for wins and taking a management function. However he claims his management hasn’t modified one iota.

“The identical,” Harden stated. “It’s simply, I get credit score now. Beforehand I wasn’t getting credit score.”

What’s the roster endgame?

The 10-day offers for Andre Roberson, Tyler Prepare dinner and Iman Shumpert finish over the break. Any might be introduced again; or with the G-League ending, two-way participant Reggie Perry may get elevated into any of their vacated spots.

However with a lot roster flexibility, count on greater strikes by the March 25 buying and selling deadline. Injured Spencer Dinwiddie is drawing curiosity, and the Nets will watch to see if Andre Drummond will get purchased out. They’re additionally reportedly inquisitive about Houston’s PJ Tucker, in response to ESPN and The Athletic.