The long-awaited third star has arrived in Brooklyn to team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets completed a four-team deal that adds three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden to the mix in exchange for a raft of players and draft picks that essentially means the future is now for them.
According to initial reports by ESPN and The Athletic that a source confirmed to Newsday, the Nets get Harden from the Rockets and a 2024 second-round draft pick from the Cavaliers.
They sent center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince to the Cavs. The blockbuster package the Nets sent to the Rockets included Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs and first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 plus the right to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027. The Rockets also received Dante Exum and a 2022 first-round pick from the Cavs (via the Bucks). They turned around and then shipped LeVert to the Pacers for two-time All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and a future second-round pick.
Before the opening of training camp in December, reports surfaced that Harden was seeking a trade to the Nets, where he could rejoin Durant, who played together with him on the Oklahoma City Thunder early in their careers. But the Rockets held onto Harden while trying to gain the maximum return from either the Nets or the 76ers, who were the two leading candidates to get Harden, who has three years and $133 million left on his contract, including a player option in the final season.
Talks were said to be picking up momentum, but everything came to a head Tuesday night when the Rockets suffered their second straight loss to the Lakers and Harden said in a postgame interview that the Rockets "arent good enough" and he didnt think they "can be fixed." Harden added, "I literally have done everything I can."
Rockets coach Stephen Silas ruled him out of practice on Wednesday, and the deal was done before the Nets faced the Knicks at Madison Square Garden with a drastically different roster that included 12 active players plus injured Spencer Dinwiddie and Nic Claxton.
No one on the Nets could speak about the deal until it becomes official with the NBA, and coach Steve Nash danced around what he described as "trade rumors" during his pregame news conference. But he offered a succinct answer when asked how he weighs a superstar versus homegrown stars who represented the Nets culture.
"I dont want to comment on the rumors, but we know this is a stars league," Nash said.
Nash declined comment on locker room reaction, but simply acknowledged LeVert, Allen, Prince and Kurucs were not in the building and were unavailable. Of course, Irving (personal reasons) also remained unavailable for the fifth straight game.
Asked about Irvings status and the timetable for his return, Nash said, "I havent had an opportunity to know any new details about Kyries situation. So Ill just rely on the front office to learn more as we go. Theyre the ones, I think, that are going to do the messaging on that front."
Once Nash has a full, healthy roster, the most likely starting lineup will include Irving and Harden at the guard spots, Durant and Joe Harris at the forward positions and center DeAndre Jordan.
A likely second unit would include guards Bruce Brown and Landry Shamet, forwards Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and either Claxton or rookie Reggie Perry and small-ball center Jeff Green. Guards Tyler Johnson, Chris Chiozza and Dinwiddie fill out the current roster.
The Nets now have three open roster spots plus a $5.7 million mid-level exception, the minimum exception, and most likely a $5.7 million disabled player exception for Dinwiddie that they can use to fill out their roster.
Now its up to Nash to find a way to develop chemistry on a team with three superstars who are used to having the ball in their hands and will have to make sacrifices for it to work.
"I think basketball is about playing together and being the best you can be," Nash said. "So no matter who you are, its about finding connectivity and balance within a team and trying to be greater than the sum of your parts. That doesnt change no matter what your team looks like."
2024 second-round pick (from the Cavaliers via the Bucks)
Three unprotected first-round picks from the Nets (2022, 2024, 2026)
Fiirst-round pick in 2022 from the Cavaliers (via the Bucks)
First-round pick swaps from the Nets (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)