Nets’ James Harden is a person on a mission

There was this one possession early within the second quarter Monday night time when James Harden discovered himself double-teamed on the correct facet by a pair of Spurs, and nonchalantly delivered a behind-the-back go beneath to Nic Clayton for the gimme.

Harden makes the sport look really easy it’s so straightforward to think about what the Nets may be if Kevin Durant can get his hamstring proper after the All-Star break and be a part of the social gathering they plan on throwing in Brooklyn, particularly if a star is being born in younger Claxton (17 factors in 17 minutes).

“When James is being James,” Kyrie Irving stated, “it makes all our jobs lots simpler.”

There is no such thing as a assure, in fact, that too many cooks gained’t spoil the Brooklyn broth when the warmth will get sizzling within the playoff kitchen, however because the All-Star break nears, as his revenge recreation in opposition to the Rockets looms Wednesday night time in Houston, James Harden has proven himself to be a mannequin teammate, seamlessly Euro-stepping on the notion that one ball would by no means be sufficient for Durant, Irving and him.

“Truthfully I simply attempt to discover methods to affect the sport,” Harden stated, “and never simply rating the basketball.”

He’s a person on a mission, his seventh triple-double (30 factors, 20 within the fourth quarter and OT, 14 rebounds, 15 assists, zero turnovers) main the Nets’ to a 124-113 victory, their first in San Antonio since 2002, solely after they’d let the Spurs rating the final 10 factors within the final two minutes of regulation.

The Nets’ three amigos all deliver their very own distinctive motivations to the desk, however no yet another than Harden.

For one: He’s 31 years previous and hasn’t gained an NBA championship.

Durant has two rings.

Irving has one ring.

Harden has discovered the exhausting manner that there aren’t any medals for making an attempt.

James Harden shoots the ball in opposition to the Spurs on Monday night time.
Getty Photos

“It’s not a assure to me coming to Brooklyn is guaranteeing a title,” Harden stated at his introductory press convention. “However I feel for me, giving myself an opportunity may be very, essential … youthful, desirous to receives a commission and desirous to deal with my household was very, essential to me. Now … giving myself an opportunity to do one thing that I haven’t completed on this league.”

For 2: He seems decided to alter the narrative that adopted him to Brooklyn.

Harden couldn’t play good with Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul or John Wall, and so there have been eyebrows raised when Nets GM Sean Marks pulled the set off on a championship-or-bust transfer that might shine a good brighter highlight on whether or not his rookie head coach, Steve Nash, might talk and collaborate successfully with three stars with Empire State Constructing-sized egos.

It was, and is, a leap of religion that Nash might develop rapidly sufficient to be Steve Kerr, who gained the NBA championship as a rookie coach with the Warriors.

Simply because it was, and is, a leap of religion that the Nets’ Large Three might replicate Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Durant in 2018 with the Warriors and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Warmth earlier than that.

The Rockets’ empowerment of Harden in direction of the top of his eight All-Star seasons in Houston resulted in a poisonous setting that left Harden marching to his personal drummer and singing for a divorce.

The Nets’ daring gamble can have an opportunity so long as The Beard continues to just accept that he’s now not The Straw That Stirred The Drink, merely one in every of three straws that stir the drink.

The Beard is hair for his ring.

The change of surroundings and setting seem to have rejuvenated Harden. He can rating at will when he feels prefer it. He has willingly assumed the position of selfless facilitator/distributor, gifted as he’s with an uncanny court docket imaginative and prescient and knack for figuring out the right way to play the sport. He helps on the glass. He’s an All-Star for the ninth consecutive season. “He actually can do virtually the whole lot there’s to do on the market,” Nash stated, “and he’s been an amazing chief for us.”

Harden is a maestro with the basketball in his hand, dictating the phrases of engagement on nights when Irving defers or wants a breather.

Houston, you’ve got an issue coming.

In some methods, drawback. A charitable drawback for storm-ravaged Houston.

“I’m simply excited to be taking part in in entrance of these followers,” Harden stated. “My plan is to the touch as many individuals as I can within the sense of whether or not it’s meals, whether or not it’s water, whether or not it’s constructing their houses, whether or not it’s making them smile, regardless of the case could also be, simply attempt to contact hundreds and hundreds of individuals in that metropolis as a result of they’ve achieved that for me and so they confirmed me and my household that a lot love.”

The Nets have been anointed championship contenders the minute Durant and Irving determined to take their skills to Brooklyn. Spencer Dinwiddie’s torn ACL suffered just one week into the season and the dispatching of Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs to amass Harden lower into the Nets’ depth.

Harden rebelled on the finish of his daze in Houston — violating the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, maskless inside a membership and attending rapper Lil Child’s party and frequenting Las Vegas golf equipment throughout his holdout firstly of coaching camp.

However with the Nets, he has been a prime-time insurgent with a trigger … and the trigger is that elusive NBA championship.