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3 takeaways from Nets training camp

James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Nets

This isn’t your typical training camp update. If you’re following the New York Knicks, you know that Tom Thibodeau likes the chemistry Derrick Rose developed with his second unit so it sounds like he’s going to start Kemba Walker. That’s how many of these typical camp updates have sounded. You know, basketball stuff. Updates out of Nets training camp are a different beast altogether. You may have already heard the latest on CNN.

Let’s try to keep you up to speed on the national discourse, and a few of the under-the-radar updates we’ve received so far.

3 takeaways from Nets training camp

3) James Harden looks sleek

It was no secret that James Harden wasn’t in peak physical condition when the Nets acquired him last season. He appeared to pick up a few pounds, perhaps in an attempt to encourage the Rockets to trade him. Many fans thought that carried over and contributed to the hamstring issues that plagued his 2021 season. Harden suggests he’s as explosive as ever and recent footage of him working out backs up his claim.

Per Sirius XMNBA Radio, Nets head coach Steve Nash delivered a truth bomb about the importance of Harden’s health this season:

“…So if we can keep him healthy… put him in a position to continue to improve through the season and individually. We [Nets] know what he’s able to do as a playmaker, what he’s able to do as a leader. It will be pivotal for us for him to be healthy and for him to continue to grow physically after pretty ‘stop and start’ last year.

That’s the number one thing. His health and maintaining it, and getting himself into better and better condition, rhythm, shape… all those things that allow him to play his highest level. That would be icing on the cake.”

If Harden is 100 percent come playoff time, it’s going to spell major trouble for the Eastern Conference. Most signs from camp indicate Harden is feeling good and also that the Nets plan to deploy him conservatively in the early going anyway.

2) It does not sound like James Harden is on the verge of extension

We’ve heard a few interviews now, both from James Harden himself, and from the co-owner of the team Joe Tsai. Neither update made it sound like the Nets were on the one-yard line here for getting Harden’s extension completed. Both sides have until October 18th to tack on a few seasons to the remaining portion of Harden’s deal.

An update from ESPN’s Malika Andrews features Harden talking about how he’s always been a loyal player and just signed his extensions. But he’s never over the course of his 12-year career been an unrestricted free agent. That seems noteworthy.  If he were to reach unrestricted free agency, the Nets would be in danger of losing him for nothing. Imagine the haul they could get if they traded him? Surely that’s not on their minds, but if something, anything, went wrong (a fight with Kyrie Irving during the NBA Finals next spring) who knows how that might impact his summer of 2022.

Most of the updates we’ve heard point towards Harden wanting to remain in Brooklyn for the long term. He’s come out and said as much. But precisely when he signs an extension (whether that’s before October 18th or next summer) has important implications for how much money he can make. By waiting until next summer, he could potentially earn $270M. In my opinion, the most recent updates on this situation make it sound like that’s the plan here. But Nets fans won’t truly breathe easy until it’s official.

1) Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status is the biggest story in the NBA and it’s not going away anytime soon

The NBA has reported a near 95% vaccination rate among its players. Kyrie Irving is reportedly one of the 5 percent not vaccinated. He’s asked for privacy but if the reports are true it would mean he’s not currently eligible to play basketball in Brooklyn. The Nets might head into the season with a member of their big three unavailable for half of the games. That’s far from ideal, regardless of your feelings on a controversial topic. Oh, and everybody has an opinion on the matter.

Nets owner Joe Tsai has come out and talked about being pro-vaccine himself. And he respects that it is a personal health issue. However, he also wants to remind his team that a championship is the ultimate goal. And let’s face it, it’s going to be much harder to do that if their team isn’t available to play on a nightly basis.

Tsai, speaking on the issue, per Brian Lewis New York Post:

“So Kyrie talks about it as a sort of personal choice issue, which I respect. But we all need to not forget that our goal,” Tsai told The Post. “What is our goal this year? What’s our purpose this year? It’s very, very clear: Win a championship. And the championship team needs to have everybody pulling the same direction.

“So I hope to see Kyrie play fully and win a championship together with everybody else, with all his teammates. That’s the best outcome for everybody.”

So the latest from Nets camp on basketball’s biggest story is basically, this story doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. And as the home opener approaches, it’ll only get bigger.