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James Harden, Nets

Grading James Harden’s Nets debut

It didn’t take long for James Harden to remind everyone why the Brooklyn Nets emptied the cupboard to acquire him from the Houston Rockets this past week. Just 48 hours since joining his new squad and not getting the chance to practice with them, one would think that Harden might need time to get acclimated with his new teammates. But that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday night.

The Bearded superstar had his fingerprints all over Brooklyn’s 122-115 victory over the Orlando Magic. With Kevin Durant leading the way with 42 points, Harden paced himself to a triple-double in his Nets debut.

The former league MVP dropped 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists in the 7-point win. He also shot 8-of-18 from the field, knocked down three 3-pointers, and had four steals and a block in 40 minutes of work. Considering it was his first game with his new team, Harden probably deserves an A for his terrific performance on Saturday.

So why not an A+? Well, Harden committed nine turnovers on the evening. Yes, he had sloppy moments, but we’re just nitpicking at this point. Other than that, Harden had a magnificent debut with Brooklyn that must have Nets fans excited for what’s to come. In fact, it was also a historic one at that.

Harden’s 14 dimes became the most in a debut game for the Nets franchise. Likewise, the 8-time All-Star became the first player in NBA history to notch a 30-point triple-double in his first game with his new team.

As expected, James Harden took a while before getting going on the offensive end. He started the game, however, doing other things, especially on the other side of the ball. In his first defensive possession as a Net, Harden stripped the ball from a driving Cole Anthony, resulting in his lone block of the night. Two minutes later, he knocked the ball away from Nikola Vucevic on the post.

Harden’s first 12 minutes with Brooklyn ended with no made baskets, just two points on a couple of made free throws with six seconds remaining in the period. The lefty superstar’s first field goal as a Net came in the second quarter, a euro step beauty in the lane at the 10:06 mark. Slowly but surely, Harden eventually found his rhythm offensively.

Despite committing some turnovers here and there, Harden located his teammates for easy looks in halfcourt sets. He found shooters like Joe Harris and Jeff Green for spot-up threes and even established a nice little connection with Reggie Perry in pick-and-roll action.

Harden also flashed his playmaking ability in transition in this game. Some of Harden’s fast break assists came as a result of him looking down the floor and rewarding the ball to his teammates who leaked out. This resulted in quick offensive attacks and easy finishes for Brooklyn.

Of course, James Harden also didn’t waste time reigniting his chemistry with Kevin Durant. Six of his 14 dimes accounted for 13 of KD’s 42 points on the evening.

If this is how Harden’s first game as a Brooklyn Net went, just imagine how devastating he would be as he further develops chemistry and rapport with his teammates. Of course, one has to think about how Kyrie Irving’s return, whenever that may be, will eventually affect him.

It remains to be seen how the three elite superstars will eventually co-exist playing alongside each others. Nevertheless, Harden is excited to get Irving back in the fold and warned the league of “scary hours” when the Brooklyn Big Three finally makes their debut together.