While James Harden was hanging in his Atlanta hotel room waiting for the All-Star Game, the Nets superstar looked ahead to the second half of the regular season.
Harden believes he is playing “very, very good basketball” as his MVP case continues to grow. Outside of his individual play, the 31-year-old said his ultimate goal is to compete and win Brooklyn’s elusive first championship as the entire Nets organization does.
“I think I’m playing very, very good basketball right now, especially with everything we have been through as a team. How quick it’s been as far as getting to know my teammates and being on the same court as them. The ultimate goal is to compete for a championship and win a championship. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Brooklyn. I think everybody in this organization feels the same way.”
There is no question a team needs star players to compete and Brooklyn has been eyeing another NBA household name. The Nets reportedly will sign a fourth star prior to the second half of the season and his name is Blake Griffin, who cleared waivers at 5:00 PM ET Sunday. At the time of his All-Star game media availability, Harden did not want to comment on the move unless and until it becomes official but called Griffin an exciting player.
“We haven’t made that move yet or acquired anybody yet so I can answer that later, if it happens,” Harden said on the Griffin rumors. “We all know how exciting Blake Griffin is and the player he is.”
While Sean Marks looks to add to their (still) flexible roster, another huge piece besides Harden and his All-Star teammate Kyrie Irving is already on the team if not currently playing. Kevin Durant has missed all but one game in the past month -- including the All-Star Game, first to health and safety protocols, then a balky left hamstring.
Harden is excited to have Durant back healthy but he wants the team to figure it out so Brooklyn is ready to go once playoffs start. He credits the Nets’ first-half success to the makeup of the roster with its veteran nature. That, he told reporters in Atlanta, adds insurance to play on the fly with limited practice time.
“We use games as practice and the guys watch a lot of film, communication has to be great, and I think you just go off your experiences like what you been doing on the court,” Harden said. “We’ve been pretty solid because we have a vet team so guys know how to play the game of basketball. The communication aspect better along the way.
“Huge piece has far as KD missing for some amount of games but once he gets back in the second half, we can continue the communication, continue the play on the games, and continue to watch film and get this thing right. The most important part is being ready to go once the playoffs start.”
As Durant, who played only 19 games in the first half of the regular season, continues to rehab his lingering hamstring strain, there is no question what he brings to this Nets team on the hardwood.
Harden believes there is more feeling out to do when the Nets Big Three are all healthy and on the court. After all, the “Big Three” have only played seven games together. Despite the feeling out, the Nets point guard explained how he was scoring more than usual with Durant sidelined but when he returns, he wants to make everyone’s job easier and is willing to do whatever for Brooklyn with the end goal of competing.
“A little feeling but I think it would be easy,” Harden said on the Nets “Big Three” playing off each other. “Me as the point guard or primary ball-handler, I know what I have on my team and I know what positions they like the ball in and how great we can be. Kevin has been out the last few weeks and I had to do a little bit more scoring. When he comes back, the scoring might not be up a little bit more but the ultimate goal is to win. I know how great Kevin has been playing and how going out there and make his job, Kai’s job, and the rest of our teams’ job easier. Whatever that looks like, I’m willing to do.”
When asked about sharing the floor with Kyrie Irving and Durant, Harden couldn’t hold back his smile and talked about how grateful he is for that opportunity.
“I’m excited to share the floor with KD and Kai every single night,” Harden said with a smile. “Obviously we can’t in an All-Star game but throughout the course of the year and in the second half I’m more excited because we are going to be so locked in and we are competing for something. The talent and the skill set these guys have, along with their competitive nature, is great to be a part of with the rest of the team as well.”
While the second half of the season is coming closer and the playoffs are not too far away, Harden says Brooklyn is pretty much built for any challenge coming their way and is excited for the journey ahead.
“I’m looking forward to the journey. Obviously, there is going to be some challenges but I think we are pretty much built for it.”