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James Harden to make Brooklyn debut vs. Magic

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We’re stepping into the light. On a day when the Brooklyn Nets made the trade of a lifetime, they had to step on to the court shorthanded. With nine guys able to dress and on the back leg of a back-to-back, they took it to the New York Knicks and gave Brooklyn fans a win to wrap up a hectic day.

The opponent tonight will be the Orlando Magic. It’s been a better than expected season (6-6) for Steve Clifford’s injury-plagued squad and they hope to sneak back into the postseason this year. This is the second night of a back-to-back for the Magic. They got boxed around by the Celtics in Boston last night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WCBS 880 AM on radio (WFAN is on NFL playoff duty). Tip off after 6:30.


Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Kyrie Irving are out. James Harden (!!!!!) is available after the Nets sweetened the four-team deal to compensate for an issue the Pacers found in Caris LeVert’s physical. Specifically, a Cavaliers 2024 second rounder — the only other asset acquired by the Nets in the deal— is now being redirected to Indiana. Marc Stein reports an undisclosed of cash considerations is heading from Brooklyn to Indiana.

Steve Nash wouldn’t say how many minutes he expects Harden to play but he will start...

Al-Farouq Aminu, Michael Carter Williams, Jonathan Issac, Evan Fournier, Mo Bamba, and Chuma Okeke are all out.

The game

I wouldn’t blame anybody if they looked ahead to MLK Day. For the Nets, they’ve got a showcase game against the Milwaukee Bucks and might have their “Big Three” on full display. The league has always placed an emphasis on putting the best games on for MLK Day and Nets vs. Bucks promises to be a fascinating one.

Like the Nets, the Magic will be hooping on MLK Day. And just like Brooklyn, they’ll be in town as they head to MSG to play the Knicks. The Magic have a few more days on the road before heading back home.

We mentioned Orlando’s injuries above, and Garrett Townsend of Orlando Pinstriped Post lays out the devastating consequences to Orlando’s future:

The injured elephant in the room that we haven’t addressed yet is the hauntingly similar injury that has already sidelined Orlando’s other perceived young foundational piece, forward Jonathan Isaac. Alongside Fultz, this pair of talented youngsters were envisioned to be the duo that would one day help lead the Magic back to a state of genuine contention, a projection which would cruelly seem so far from reality at this current moment as to be an impossibility. Orlando now has somewhere in the vicinity of $130 million tied up in these two moving forward, a number that already carried some known risk that has since been only further amplified.

So, yeah... Kevin Durant is still really friggin’ good. Just thought I should say that. In all seriousness, KD looks like his old self and has been holding it down while Irving is out. He’s already impossible to defend and having Harden running alongside him creates a nightmare scenario for opposing defenses. Who does your best defender guard? If you put him on Harden, Durant is liable to drop 30+ on you. Have that defender guard KD, and Harden can go for 30+ while saddling your team in foul trouble. And that’s before we get into Irving when he gets back. It’s an impossible puzzle to solve, so we’ll see how teams counteract it

It feels like Aaron Gordon’s been around forever, but he’s only 25 years old. The high flyer is taking fewer shots inside the restricted area this year compared to last season, but he’s making the most out of his opportunities there (71.4 field goal percentage inside the restricted area). Jeff Green will be back at the four for Brooklyn and he’s done well this week in the starting lineup. He wasn’t doing well on the second unit, so his work in the starting five might compel Steve Nash to leave him there for the time being.

Player to watch: Nikola Vucevic

An old Nets nemesis is back in town. Vucevic has given the Nets plenty of trouble over the years as he’s cost them games with his scoring in the paint and work on the glass. He’s completed his transformation into a respectable three point shooter and is firing them up six times a night and making them at a 42.4 percent clip. Having a big man who can draw the other big man away from the basket opens everything up for your team and allows for less of a hassle at the rim.

DeAndre Jordan is gonna need to keep that same energy from here on out. DJ had his best game as a Net on Wednesday, putting up nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, and playing with a bundle of energy that will be a must every night out. Everyone wondered why DJ didn’t play the night before against Nikola Jokic, but little did we know that the Nets were working on shaking up the basketball universe.

When DJ hits the bench, Reggie Perry hopes to come in and build off of a career night. The rook played hard, helped spark the second unit and even hit a three pointer for his troubles. Perry may wind up being the odd man out as the Nets look to add size to the roster, but while he’s out there, he’ll look to keep making a name for himself.

From the Vault

I’m feeling good. Hope you are too

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post