James Harden’s debut with the Brooklyn Nets was historic.
And he and his new franchise couldn’t have dreamed up a better beginning.
In his first game since the blockbuster trade that brought him over from Houston, Harden went for 32 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds as the Nets won their third straight, 122-115, over Orlando at Barclays Center.
Harden became the first player ever to notch a 30-point triple-double in his team debut and his 14 assists were the most ever for a Nets player in his debut. He almost had a quadruple-double with nine turnovers, something he wasn’t pleased about.
Asked what that all meant by Michael Grady of the YES Network, Harden said “Nothing, I’m just glad we came away with the win. Those stats don’t mean anything, I just try to do everything on the court in my ability to help the team win. I’m just glad we came away with a win, now we gotta get ready for the next game.”
Kevin Durant poured in 42 points on 16-of-26 shooting in his first game playing alongside his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate. Joe Harris added 17 points and Jeff Green 10 for Brooklyn (8-6). Kyrie Irving missed his sixth game for personal reasons or violating NBA Covid protocols.
“When you’re paying with really, really good players, its pretty easy,” Harden said. “For me, I just gotta learn reads, learn where guys like the ball, just learn our personnel individually so once I get that, the turnovers will cut down, I can be more efficient.”
After saying Friday he planned to be more of a facilitator alongside his new teammates, Harden clearly looked to get his teammates involved early.
He made a behind -the-back pass to Green for a three. He made a nifty dish to Harris for a layup. He made a steal off a Cole Anthony pass. In the second half, he dribbled to the basket and fed a bullet pass to Durant for a three and then began to take on more of a scoring load himself.
“James, he played the same way he always played, to be honest,” Durant said. “He played the same way he was playing in Houston, being a pass-first guard, trying to get guys good looks. He played the same way.
“Coach put him at the point, I think that’s his natural position, is point and combo guard. For him to get 14 assists, 12 rebounds for us at the point guard was key.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” first-year Nets coach Steve Nash said. “We had a pretty big simple size of him doing that [for] however many years in he’s been in the league. But it’s still not easy. He’s still not in his best condition yet, he’s joined a new group.
“Basically no practice time, and figured it out on the fly. He had a bunch of turnovers just because he’s new to the team and the group and you’re thrown out there in an NBA where the other team is an excellent coached-basketball team….But all the things he did on the floor were incredible for his first game.”
Nash said before the game that Harden’s natural position is point guard, so it will be intriguing how he fits in with Irving once he returns, whether it’s on Monday or later. Nash said pre-game the timing of his return was “to be determined.”
“Throwing Kyrie in the mix makes us better,” Nash said. “It’s a good problem to have, trying to figure out how they can coexist to their highest level and standard.
“So I think it takes time, it’s going to be an adjustment for everyone but it’s an incredible problem to have and something that I think we’ll relish.”