The Nets earned a 125-123 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night thanks in part to Harden's 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. He and Durant have been electric together over two games.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Kevin Durant (72) and James Harden (66) have combined for 138 points in their first 2 games as Nets teammates. Per @EliasSports , that's 2nd-most in a duo's first two games with a franchise. The most is 151 by Wilt Chamberlain (139) and York Larese (12) on the 1961 Warriors. https://t.co/TCVMhC5MHn
Following Monday's win, Durant explained his thoughts on his new teammate's early returns:
The two stars spent three seasons together with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that was at a far different point in Harden's career. He was mostly a sixth man with Oklahoma City and not the MVP who led the NBA in scoring for three straight years.
Harden explained to reporters Monday how he and Durant are "grown men now" and have the benefit of experience to know how to play to one another's strengths:
Of course, Kyrie Irving is the wild card in all of this.
Irving has been absent since Brooklyn's 130-96 win over the Utah Jazz on Jan. 5. He was initially out for personal reasons before the NBA determined he violated the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, pushing his return back further.
Placating two stars is easier because Harden and Durant can each have plenty of touches over the course of a game. Brooklyn's lack of depth is actually a strength in that regard because the Nets have to lean so heavily on their two best players.
Now comes the hard part with Irving poised to suit back up.
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
So Irving's return to the Nets and debut alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden likely comes with Wednesday and Friday games in Cleveland. Irving has only returned to play once there since his trade to Boston in the summer of 2017 -- on opening night in October of that season.
The six-time All-Star will reasonably expect to feature heavily in the offense, especially since the Nets were supposed to be his and Durant's team when they signed in 2019. Instead, he could find himself knocked down the hierarchy.
Perhaps the shared goal of winning a championship will be enough to keep the Nets unified, but the coaching staff will need to find a way to ensure Durant, Harden and Irving can remain satisfied.