Figuring things out on the fly worked out just fine as James Harden made a Brooklyn debut that lived up to expectations and also raised them for what is still to come.
Harden arrived in Brooklyn on Thursday, got acclimated on Friday and delivered a triple-double on Saturday in his first game as a Net, a 122-115 win over the Orlando Magic.
“You can just kind of plug him in in any situation and he’s going to make it work,” said Joe Harris. “Obviously, he played extremely well and like he had been playing with us for a while, you know, putting guys in spots. Obviously not a lot of time or no time at all with him before. So, for him to pick up the plays, the defensive philosophy, all this stuff basically in a matter of just like a couple of days, pretty impressive.”
Harden’s 32 points, 14 assists, and 12 rebounds made up the first 30-point triple-double for a player making his debut with a new team in NBA history, and he had four steals as well. To Kevin Durant, who played with Harden for three seasons in Oklahoma City, it was the same old thing in a new setting.
“James, he played the same way he's always played to be honest,” said Durant. “He played the same way he was playing in Houston. Hounding the basketball, being a pass-first guard trying to get his guys good looks. He played the same way. Coach put him at the point I think that's his natural position to be honest is point, combo guard. For him to come out and get 14 assists and 12 rebounds for us at the point guard was key.”
With Durant going for a season-high 42 points while making more than 60 percent of his shots, he and Harden combined for 50 of Brooklyn’s 70 second-half points. Bridging the third quarter into the fourth, they scored 18 of the 22 points that turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead, with Harden assisting on Brooklyn’s other two baskets.
“I’m a hooper, like I said, I’m very unselfish,” said Harden. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win and obviously KD is just a elite, different type of basketball player as far as the way he’s able to score the basketball. It’s so easy for him, and I know that. I just want to make it a little bit more easier if I can, and then for the rest of our teammates, our shooters and our bigs, make it easier for them, so yeah, it was pretty easy out there.”
That was without much preparation, but Harden liked what he saw and expects more as he gets acquainted with his new teammates.
“We have some special talent in this locker room,” said Harden. “Very versatile shooters, playmakers, defenders. Little bit of everything. That’s what you’re going to need, especially when it comes to postseason. Obviously, we haven’t built as much chemistry as we would like, but that first game it felt good to be out there on the court and just giving guys confidence, giving guys energy. That’s what it’s going to take throughout the course of the year, and once you build that up and guys believe in each other, it’s pretty scary.”
Afterwards, the three-time scoring champ was thrilled with the fresh start.
“It felt unbelievable,” said Harden. “I hope that you can tell by my smile and my play. Just excited. Excited for the opportunity. This is an unbelievable organization from top to bottom and for me, all I have to do is just go out there and be the best James Harden I can be and good things will happen.”