Kevin Durant’s Nets look too talented to cave on James Harden

The Nets opened the season with a 125-99 rout of Golden State Tuesday at Barclays Center. And while no final proclamations can be made after a single game against a depleted foe, there are a couple of takeaways from the authoritative win and impressive return of Kevin Durant.

Let it ride

They don’t need to pay Houston’s price for James Harden. Sure, a three-time scoring champ makes them better, maybe even the best. But with the way they’ve come out firing, Nets GM Sean Marks almost has to let it ride with this roster for a while and see how it plays out. And their Eastern Conference foes (76ers, Heat) almost have to consider the consequences of letting Harden walk elsewhere.

KD looks like KD

“With KD out there, the way that he looked, he looked all the way healthy, confident in his body,” Steph Curry said of Durant.

After an impressive preseason, Durant backed it up with 22 points, three steals and a plus-26 in his first official game since rupturing his Achilles in June 2019.

“He looks like Kevin, he plays like Kevin,” Steve Nash admitted. “But I don’t want to start making expectations of him until he gets going and get some games and some rhythm under his belt and adapts to playing three in four nights and playing almost every other night for a stretch.”

That’ll come soon, with the Nets playing in Boston (Dec. 25), at Charlotte (Dec. 27) and vs. Memphis (Dec. 28). But the early returns are good, with Steve Kerr adding “I could not tell one difference between seeing him 18 months ago and seeing him the other night.”

There will be blowouts

The Nets are looking to manage minutes, especially on Durant and Kyrie Irving. The pair carried the Nets to a 32-point lead after three quarters in the preseason finale vs. Boston and sat out the fourth. Then they combined for 48 in Tuesday’s opener and still rested the whole final period. Every active player logged at least six minutes, including Rodions Kurucs and Bruce Brown, both seemingly out of the rotation.

Nets Kevin Durant James Harden Rockets
Kevin Durant, James Harden
Corey Sipkin; Getty Images

The offense can get better — scary better

The Nets spent tons of time in camp working on their defense (11 steals, seven blocks, 88.4 Defensive Rating), and have largely relied on talent on the other end. Their offense put up 40 in the first quarter, and can get sharper.

“We’ve got a long way to go offensively: Play with a little bit more pace and cohesion, a little bit more understanding,” Nash said. “We didn’t spend a ton of time on offense in training camp. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and that’s going to be a continual process.”

The Nets had 20 turnovers and missed a couple of lobs to Jordan, along with some fast-break outlets. They’ll get crisper on cuts with time and familiarity.

“With each game as we continue to build we’ll get more and more comfortable with each other…trying to learn each guy’s favorite spot on the floor and what they like to do,” Durant said. “That’s going to take some time to get everyone downloaded.”

Rookie coach’s rotations

Managing a team deeper than the Mariana Trench is a luxury, but also a test for a rookie coach. Nash will have to manage egos and rotations.

The 15 players that got into the game was an NBA record, according to Elias.

So far he’s stuck with DeAndre Jordan over Jarrett Allen, and had Spencer Dinwiddie starting with Caris LeVert a sixth man. The latter has flourished on the ball leading the second unit. He had 20 points, nine boards and five assists in the opener. Jeff Green has carved out a role as both Durant’s backup and a stretch five closing the half with the starters. He had seven points in 17 minutes.

New York Post

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