By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — James Harden is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, with Wednesday’s blockbuster trade one that will send reverberations throughout the NBA for years to come. The Nets should be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the NBA for the foreseeable future, and that is bad news for the Boston Celtics and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
The emphasis there, of course, is on should. On paper, adding Harden to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving catapults Brooklyn’s offense from a pretty frightening one to one that will scare the bejesus out of anyone and everyone in the NBA. The Nets now have three absurdly talented offensive players that will probably put up some absurdly eye-popping numbers. It’s not far-fetched to say they could average 150 points per game, and head coaches around the league are probably going crazy right now trying to figure out who to defend if they’re lucky enough to have one of their games against the Nets be close in the end. There probably isn’t a right answer; any of the three can hit a big shot when needed.
Boston fans saw what the Nets were capable of with Irving and Durant on Christmas Day, and it wasn’t pretty. Now that they’ve added Harden, Brooklyn is the clear favorite in the East, well ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics and all the other hopefuls in the conference. If the Nets can live up to what they should be with their shiny new trio, the window for other teams to win a title may have just slammed shut.
But — and this but is as big as Harden’s at the moment — this could also turn into an absolute circus for Brooklyn. The only thing bigger than this trio’s offensive upside is their respective egos, and now they’re about to collide in one locker room. What will the other two think when the other gets that last shot? Steve Nash ran the fast break like few others have during his playing days, but the rookie head coach may want to run as fast as he can out of the Barclays Center.
The last week has been a dumpster fire for the Nets, with Irving taking some personal time away from the team. There’s nothing wrong with that, because we could all use a little bit of a break given what has gone on over the last week, the last month, the last year. But Irving never told the Nets he was taking that break, and has kept the Nets in the dark during his time away. He was reportedly furious with Brooklyn over the Nash hiring, and now his relationship with Durant isn’t as good as it used to be.
Brooklyn’s solution? Fly a hydrogen blimp around that dumpster fire, and trade away the future to get that hydrogen blimp.
The Houston Rockets got a bounty of picks over the next four years for Harden, which, if the experiment works for Brooklyn, won’t be too big of a loss for the Nets. If Brooklyn has success over the next four years, those picks will be late first rounders and won’t cost the Nets a shot at any superstar talent.
But if the Harden-Irving-Durant trio turns into a trashy New York soap opera, the Nets could be living a repeat of the last time they mortgaged their future for a win-now situation. At least this time around, Brooklyn traded away the future for a 31-year-old scoring champion/MVP, and to get talent like that, you have to jettison a lot of something in return. If it gets really bad, they could dump any of the three stars and still be in a somewhat decent position in the present.
Wednesday’s blockbuster trade can really only go one of two ways. It could work and the Nets could become the most dangerous offensive team in the NBA, enjoying instant success and competing for a title this summer and beyond. Or the three stars are going to be at each other’s throats in a few months, and those title hopes will crumble. Irving has not been the ideal citizen for his hometown team, and he’s about to become a third wheel. Durant is always a burner account away from tearing things down. And we all saw how Harden finagled his way out of Houston. Irving and Harden are not afraid to quit on their teams, and Durant could find himself in the middle of it all.
The trade is either going to be terrible news for teams like the Bucks and the Celtics, pushing them further away from their title aspirations. Or it will greatly benefit them, taking a would-be title contender in the Irving-Durant Nets and turning it into a traveling circus.
The Nets could be a dominant offensive team for the next four years and win a title or two or three. They could just as easily implode and become a train wreck that people cannot take their eyes off of. Either way, it’s going to be some amazing theater for the NBA and its fans.