Irving, Harden, and Durant walk down the court together (Photo: NBA.com)
By Max Mwaniki, staff writer
The Nets are one of the strongest teams in the league after picking up Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. After their transition to the Nets, they each received backlash and criticism from fans of their former teams and from the media. Each for their own reasons, all three dedicate their time to the Nets to improve their skills and focus on the challenges ahead of them despite the past.
Kevin Durant decided to join the Nets on July 7, 2019 after playing with the Warriors for three years and earning a championship. While on the Warriors, his performance was outstanding, and he averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in his final year with them. Despite this, Durant decided to leave the Warriors and make his move to the Brooklyn Nets. In Durant’s 2019 Media Day, he talked about his reasons for choosing the Nets, saying the move “happened organically.” In previous interviews, Kevin Durant expressed passion for developing his skill in basketball and how his choices centered around that. When it came to the Nets, he talked about how he favored the coaching and the way the Nets were as an organization being the perfect fit for him. After hearing his goal, Nets fans accepted and welcomed him to Brooklyn. Coming off an injury and not playing for 18 days, Durant proved he was just as good as before and scored 22 points in 25 minutes, going seven for 16 along with five rebounds and three assists.
Kyrie Irving joined the Nets the same time as Durant after being on the Boston Celtics for three years. Irving was expected to become a team leader and teacher for new players to the NBA on the Celtics. However, many saw his leadership as poor, and Irving received negative feedback. Celtics and the media called Irving’s lack of leadership the driving cause for the Celtics’ losing streaks and tension within the team. On Kyrie Irving’s 2019 NBA Media Day, he talked about negative comments on his leadership. He then went on to explain that the reason for his behavior was the loss of his grandfather and the unexpected switch to the Celtics. Irving agrees with critics saying, “In terms of me being a leader in that environment and bringing everyone together, I failed.”
Irving’s reasons for moving to the Nets are similar to Durant’s, where the main goal is to better himself and help his teammates get better at the game. Irvings used Kevin Durant’s recent injury as an example by saying, “I’m going to be a protector of that all throughout the year, and not allowing anyone to infiltrate that circle of ‘hey K, [Kevin Durant] do you, get right, we’ll be fine.”
After hearing Kyrie’s move to the Nets along with Kevin Durant, many were excited to see them play in tandem and see Irving’s improvement. So far Kyrie Irving’s performance has been up to the expectations set, with him currently averaging 27.4 points per game.
James Harden’s announcement of his move to the Nets on Jan. 14, 2021 was the most talked about out of the three. Since James Harden has been known as the Rockets’ best player for eight years, finally going to a different team gave fans mixed feelings. Many Houston Rockets fans felt betrayed or disappointed he left, while others were happy that he was finally freed from the Rockets. However, in Harden’s final games with the Rockets, he constantly talked about the lack of potential in the Rockets, and during a post game interview he said, “We’re just not good enough you know, just, obviously chemistry, and talent wise.” Many players on the Rockets felt that these comments were disrespectful and his leave only two months after even more so.
This made his exit the most bitter out of the three, with fans booing him and some burning his jersey. DeMarcus Cousins responded to his comments in an interview, saying, “Obviously it’s disrespectful, but you know, everybody has a right to their opinion. We feel a certain way about some of his actions.”
Harden later addressed comments that called his previous statement disrespectful, saying, “I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone, those guys just got there; Houston, I’ve been there for a very long time….I wasn’t disrespectful towards anyone you know, I just made a comment that the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title.” From there Harden put the situation aside and continued to work on his skills. So far James Harden’s game and performance on the Nets has been great as he averages 25.4 and 11 assists per game.
The Nets have picked up three amazing elite players that have each been known to bring teams to playoffs and further. Along with Durant, Irving and Harden, recently they picked up two great defensive players: Blake Griffin and Lamarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately, Aldridge recently retired due to an irregular heartbeat before he could showcase his skill on this team. Altogether, with the players the Nets have picked up and the competitive mindset shared throughout the NBA, viewers have a fun season in store for them.