Nets coach Steve Nash reveals how James Harden, Kevin Durant have evolved since Thunder days
The Brooklyn Nets visited the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. OKC, surprisingly, has rattled off four wins in a row, giving a little added intrigue to this contest–although Brooklyn is still favored to win.
The city of Oklahoma will surely bring up some memories for Kevin Durant and James Harden. Both players played their early days in OKC and before the game, Nets head coach Steve Nash reflected a little bit on how each former MVP has evolved.
The Seattle Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma where their GM at the time, Sam Presti, ran a version of “The Process.” He traded away talents like Ray Allen, and let others like Rashard Lewis go in order to tank and team up a superstar trio of Durant, Harden and Russell Westbrook by using lottery picks.
The Thunder made the critical mistake of trading away The Beard, who they felt they could replace him given the salary he was about to command. They clearly didn’t see the same level of upside in Harden that former Houston Rockets GM at the time Daryl Morey saw. Who knows how many championships that mistake may have cost the Thunder? KD may have never even left Oklahoma. There are so many ‘”what ifs”….
Prior to Sunday’s game, Harden was averaging 19.8 points, 9.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds on the season for the Nets. His last season in Oklahoma, he averaged 16.8 points, 3.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds. During his MVP year in 2018,he scored 30.4 points per game, 8.8 dimes, and 5.4 rebounds per contest.
“I think the last time James was here he wasn’t the MVP James that has had such an impact on the game,” explained Nash. “So much success, such prolific numbers, had the rules changed because of him. That player was in their somewhere but it was not fully formed yet. So while everyone could see the talent and effectiveness, he’s definitely become something in the last ten years or however long that’s been that’s totally different and historic.”
And how about KD?
Before the game against OKC, Durant was averaging a league-leading 29.4 points on top of 8.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He was a little bit more established as a superstar in Oklahoma than Harden was. KD won the league MVP with the franchise in 2014. That season he averaged 32.0 points per game, 7.4 boards and 5.5 assists. Harden and Durant made the Finals in their third season together, losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
“I think Kevin [has become] refined as well,” contrasted the Nets coach. “In a different way, you know Kevin we could see the prodigious talent and effectiveness and efficiency even back then. But he’s just now in such a a different state of being on the court there’s a mastery to what he does where the was a little more rawness to his game back then, still doing it at an incredible level and doing it with more knowing.”
It’s pretty crazy that the Thunder drafted so much talent once upon a time. It’s even crazier to think the Nets found a way to bring both Kevin Durant and James Harden to Brooklyn.