The Brooklyn Big 3 officially became an All-Star 3 when James Harden was named to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the All-Star Game on March 7.
This is the first time the Nets have had three All-Stars in the same season.
Durant and Irving had been selected as starters, and Harden will head to Atlanta as a backup, having been outscored by Irving in voting among the Eastern Conference guards. But considering Harden’s stellar game since joining the Nets, he’s closer to being an MVP contender than an All-Star slight.
“James, I mean clearly an All-Star player, everyone has brought a lot to our team – leadership, making plays and scoring the ball,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said ahead of Tuesday’s official announcement by the night on TNT. “It has been outstanding. We are grateful to have him. “
It was the ninth year in a row that Harden has been named an All-Star, the second-longest active streak of such picks behind LeBron James’ 17 straight. (Durant has been named in the last 11 seasons he has played, and missed the 2019-20 season following Achilles surgery.)
“For the All-Star Game, that’s always a blessing. That means you’re doing something right, that means you’re playing extremely well up to that point, ”Harden said, scoring 29 points for 14 assists and 11 rebounds in the Nets’ 127-118 victory over the Kings on Tuesday. . “You never want to take opportunities like that for granted. So I am blessed. I am lucky to be part of my ninth All-Star Game. “
As the leader in getting votes in the Eastern Conference, Durant will captain and elect Team Durant. He will choose against James in the 2021 NBA All-Star Draft, which will be televised on TNT on March 4 at 8 p.m.
With James getting first choice in the first round (when starters are selected), that means Durant will get first choice of the reserve pool. It’s hard to imagine a better résumé than Harden, who is defending another MVP trophy.
Since joining the Nets in a four-team mega-trade, Harden came in Tuesday averaging 24.9 points on 50.2 percent shooting overall and 41 percent from deep. But even more than his own offense, he has improved everyone else.
He saw a Brooklyn team that had trouble on the glass, averaging 8.3 rebounds, en route to a career high. He took an elite offense and made it a historic one, delivering 11.4 assists, the league-best, on his way to another best run.
“I don’t want to belittle how great it is, because I expected this; you’ve seen him play so many times, ”Nash said. “I’ll say this: it’s even more impressive when he’s on your team and he’s shooting 3-pointers back at the deciding moment. That is a beautiful thing to have in your arsenal.
“However, I would say that what most occurred to me, being here working with him, is his leadership, his attitude, his commitment. A total professional, and he’s been such an important piece, not just on the court, but because of the way he’s been a leader in this group. For me, I didn’t know what to expect, and it was amazing to see what kind of leader and professional he is. “
That leadership has been evident with Harden not only helping Brooklyn survive, but thrive during Durant’s five-game absence due to injury. The Nets are 13-5 when Harden plays and 5-1 when he starts alongside Durant and Irving.
“He is a very willing passer. He is a smart player. He gets it, ”Landry Shamet said. “He understands what the defenses are trying to do most of the time, and he’s a guy who wants to get others involved because he understands the value of that not just for him but for the rest of the team.
“It was great playing with him. He is a good leader, a good communicator and we continue to grow as well. We have a lot of room to grow and develop. But it was great. “
The Nets haven’t had more than two All-Stars since Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, Billy Paultz and Brian Taylor made the cut in 1974-75. But that was when they were still in the ABA and in the midst of a nomadic existence. This Big 3 offers a different level of promise … and a shot at an NBA title.