Durant 'heard all the noise' amid Harden-Nets rumours

By Sacha Pisani 2 December 2020 8
Durant 'heard all the noise' amid Harden-Nets rumours

Kevin Durant said he is aware of rumours linking James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, though the superstar denied discussing a blockbuster move with the Houston Rockets sharpshooter.

Rockets star and former NBA MVP Harden reportedly wants to be traded to the Nets, where he would reunite with Durant and team up with Kyrie Irving.

Harden – an eight-time All-Star – was team-mates with Durant at the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012.

Durant was asked about Harden on Tuesday and he told reporters: "I don't know where you're making these stories up that me and James talked about any of this at a workout.

"I don't know where that came from. James is a friend of mine, but I let the front office handle all of that stuff."

Harden would bring a high volume of three-point and free-throw attempts to Brooklyn, not to mention a dominant scorer, which the Nets have rarely had.

In terms of individual seasons averaging 30.0-plus points, Harden boasts three seasons, while Durant has two. The Nets? 0. John Williamson's high of 29.5 points per game in 1977-78 (in just 33 games) is the closest.

In each of the past three seasons, Harden has earned the NBA scoring title. Durant – yet to play for Brooklyn following an Achilles injury – has claimed four honours, compared to the Nets' all-time haul of 0 after Keith Van Horn finished fifth in 1998-99. Harden and Durant have won seven of the past 11 scoring crowns.

Harden would also bring a resume with a lot of wins and postseason experience, as did Irving and Durant as former NBA champions with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors respectively – the Nets have lost in the first round in back-to-back seasons, while not since 2003 have they featured in the Finals.

The issue of Harden signing for the Nets would be centred on possession and distribution, given he, Durant and Irving are ball carriers.

Looking at the highest usage percentage – an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor – since 2014-15 to get an idea of how the Nets could make it work with the trio, and Harden (second, 35.3 per cent), Durant (eighth, 29.6 per cent) and Irving (ninth, 29.4 per cent) rank in the top 10. The NBA average is 20.0 per cent.

Durant added: "I heard all the noise, and I heard that James potentially wanted to come to the Nets.

"Anybody can make up stories. Anybody can write a story and it get some traction."

Durant stepped up his preparations for the 2020-21 season as he gears up for his Nets debut, having sat out the 2019-20 campaign due to an Achilles injury suffered during his time with the Warriors, where he won two NBA Finals MVPs.

The 2014 MVP suited up for his first training-camp workout on Tuesday, and he said: "I feel good playing. I am just taking it a day at a time.

"I have been through surgeries and injuries before. But the longest recovery was three months. The first phase of the Achilles [recovery] was three months. You can't walk around, you have to use a scooter.

"I've worked as hard as I could. I've been in the league 14 years; even if I didn't have an Achilles, I wouldn't be at 100 per cent. It's just wear and tear over time. [But] I feel solid."

First-year head coach Steve Nash will lead the Nets and the Hall of Famer does not expect Durant and Irving to play all 72 games, with the season scheduled to start on December 22.

"It's been such a layoff for both of them and in particular Kevin, with coming off one of the toughest injuries to deal with as a basketball player," Nash said. "We have to be very careful with him and his adaptation process back into the game.

"Kevin has done everything you could ever have asked to put himself in this position. Perhaps we have to protect him from himself in a way because he brings so much joy and passion to the sport."

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Sacha Pisani