The additional kilos nonetheless cling off James Harden’s stomach — the ultimate remnants of the recklessness he weaponized to barrel his way out of the Houston Rockets — however they’re beginning to soften away.
He’s embarking on a well-recognized playbook for disgruntled stars who take PR hits en path to new groups: win, so your goals appear justified ultimately. The technique is rooted principally in distraction. What number of occasions can one point out how Harden arrived in Brooklyn within the midst of him racking up triple-doubles?
The load acquire, if it affected his sport in any respect, provides him extra girth to bully defenders, the kookiest instance but of what makes Harden such a complicated participant and compelling character: He violates our conceptions of what it takes to succeed, the identical approach his new famous person teammates increase questions in regards to the utility of victory.
When the Rockets gave Harden the open street, he pressed on the court docket just like the buttons on a calculator, engineering a scoring formulation that reoriented the NBA. Some thought he was dishonest the sport, messing with the zippiness inherent to its magnificence — basketball is jazz, not math.
Harden reminds us that successful isn’t all the time fairly. He methods defenders and scams refs. When he joined the Nets, their title odds jumped to +300, morphing his sport from nuisance to existential menace.
Off the court docket, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving throw darts at mainstream sports activities values. They’ve hopped off groups they received championships with, suggesting successful isn’t the truth is the whole lot, posing uncomfortable questions on simply what the hell it’s that we’re all doing right here.
You get the sense there’s a subset of followers not solely begging the Nets to fail, however contemplating their failure a fait accompli: karmic retribution from the basketball gods that may finally restore order. For individuals who want successful to imply one thing, the solutions the Nets present aren’t those they’re on the lookout for.
However toppling two MVPs and an All-Star received’t be straightforward. The Nets are going to be a — ahem — drawback. In one other time, they could have been good villains, forcing themselves into relevance — even ubiquity — by successful, by inspiring copycats.
However villains have gone out of style ever since NBA followers grew to become self-aware. After the backlash and reexamination of LeBron James’ choice to hitch the Miami Warmth, even individuals who didn’t like Durant becoming a member of the Golden State Warriors in 2016 had been cautious to say in addition they revered his proper to decide for himself.
New eras beget new definitions. The Nets aren’t villains. They’re antiheroes.
Durant bristled feathers by detonating a possible rivalry when he left the Thunder for the Warriors after dropping to them in seven video games within the 2015-16 Western Convention finals.
When he received a championship with the Warriors, he was open about the fact that it didn’t solve every problem in his life. Then he left the Warriors, detonating the dynasty, suggesting there’s something value chasing apart from the sheer pursuit of rings.
Irving did the identical factor when he demanded a trade from Cleveland after successful his first championship. A full dissection of Irving’s recent sabbatical is a dialogue for one more day, but it surely means that for gamers — even a champion with clutch bona fides — some issues do, the truth is, take priority over basketball.
For all of the individuals who want Irving and Durant would simply go well with up and shut up, and that Harden would cease flopping, there are those that discover the questions they pose compelling — even vital.
Harden fell out with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Dwight Howard earlier than chopping to the chase falling out with Houston. Irving and Durant received championships however frayed relationships. They’re all trying to find one thing, whereas everybody they go away behind watches, perplexed.
How can they appear to have the whole lot but dare to seek for a greater world? Are they even those they’re on the lookout for? What would it not imply for superstars who know successful isn’t the whole lot to win?
First, the Nets must adapt sufficient to win.
Durant doesn’t but know when to assist and when to hold again. Harden doesn’t know when to gang-rebound and when to run the break. Irving doesn’t know when to let the ball go.
These are only a few of the problems the Nets should navigate on their quest for refinement and victory. The outcomes will reveal whether or not their pasts contained omens or classes.
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