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Nets' new Big 3 of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving promise to make necessary sacrifices

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets warms

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets warms up prior to facing the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center on January 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas.  Credit: Getty Images/Carmen Mandato

The rumors that James Harden wanted to force the Rockets to trade him to the Nets to form a "Big Three" with former teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had been out there since the opening of training camp, and when that opportunity finally presented itself on Wednesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks consulted with the superstar trio and loved what he heard.

"These guys have given us the right answers," Marks said on Thursday when the megadeal became official. "They want to play together, they can see this fitting . . . I think they understand there’s without a doubt going to be some nights where one or two have to sacrifice for the other, but I think they’re all looking for that common goal, which is to be the last team standing."

Without a doubt, winning an NBA championship or even multiple titles is the whole point. That’s why Marks sacrificed homegrown players Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs along with Taurean Prince plus unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to acquire Harden. They also gave the Rockets the right to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027.

It was a king’s ransom that undoubtedly mortgaged the future, but the Nets now have three superstars who all have three years left on their current contracts. So Marks leaped at the opportunity when the Rockets finally lost patience with the recalcitrant Harden, who publicly said on Tuesday they didn’t have enough to win.

"The timing was right for us," Marks said. "Any time you get an opportunity to acquire a player of this caliber, it’s something you do look hard at and it’s something we did. The process sped up very, very rapidly over the last 48 hours.

"When you’re bringing in an MVP, first-NBA-team-caliber player, he knows what he’s capable of doing. We’ve had conversations with him, and he’s so eager to get on the court with these guys and be part of this and start fresh."

Harden arrived in Brooklyn on Thursday and is expected to make his Nets debut against the Magic on Saturday night at Barclays Center, assuming he passed his physical. Irving’s status is up in the air because he has missed the past five games for personal reasons and also is under investigation for violating NBA health and safety protocols.

Harden can look forward to a quick reunion with Durant, who was his Thunder teammate from 2009-12, and with Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, who was the Rockets’ coach from 2016-20 and was consulted by Marks before making the trade. Harden also has a relationship with Irving, who played with Harden and Durant on the U.S. Olympic team.

"They understand what’s at stake here, and that includes James," Marks said of the trio. "I am also banking on his prior relationship with Kevin. These guys have likely stayed in contact . . . So they know each other very well, and we’re going to bank on that coming here and hopefully speeding up that process."

Of course, there are serious questions about how three players used to dominating the ball will mesh. That’s especially true for Harden — the NBA’s scoring leader the past three seasons with averages of 30.4, 36.1 and 34.3 points per game — sharing the backcourt with Irving.

Asked if he spoke to Harden about the need to sacrifice his statistics to fit with Irving and Durant, Marks said, "Actually, I never had to bring that up with any of them because they brought it up right at the start. They want to win. That’s all I heard from James is: ‘I want to win. I am all about winning.’ That’s what we need to hear, that’s the level of sacrifice, and these guys know it."

That level of understanding will be crucial to ensure that the Nets don’t wind up bankrupt after sacrificing control of seven years of draft picks.

"We’re not bankrupt right now, so there’s still multiple ways to build," Marks said. "We will continue to build with or without the picks we may or may not have now . . . But we also need to capitalize on this window and what’s in front of us right now. That’s why some of these decisions have to be made when they have to be made."

The Nets’ new Big 3 have averaged more than 53 shots per game during their NBA careers:

Kevin Durant 18.7

Kyrie Irving 17.7

James Harden 16.7

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