James Harden made his Nets debut in a 122-115 win over the Magic on Saturday night at Barclays Center. After a two-point first quarter, he became the first player in NBA history to finish with a 30-point triple-double in his debut with a new team.
Harden totaled 32 points, 14 assists, 12 rebounds, four steals and one blocked shot. OK, he also had nine turnovers, one away from an unhappy quadruple-double.
Even so, his new teammates were thrilled. Kyrie Irving did not play, but Kevin Durant did and scored a Nets career-high 42 points.
Describing Harden’s debut, Durant said: "Man, it was incredible. You could see him trying to figure out the best way to play. Early on, I felt like we were overpassing. Trying to make everybody comfortable. Then he just got into his mode of being aggressive to score, and that opened up the whole game for all of us."
Durant totaled 14 points in the fourth quarter and could credit Harden for the assists on seven of those points.
Considering the Nets still didn’t have Irving, who missed his sixth straight game and hasn’t played since Jan. 5, Durant is supremely optimistic about the future.
"I can’t wait until we have our full team together and seeing how we can create shots for shooters, seeing how we can get our bigs some easy points in the paint," Durant said. "It’s going to be tough for anybody to double us, especially from the three-point line."
Durant criticized the fact that he and Harden had a combined 15 turnovers.
"We’ve got to be better," he said. "I should probably go talk to him about that right now."
Joe Harris had 17 points and shot 4-for-9 from three-point range. He found himself wide open several times because of the defensive attention paid to Harden and Durant.
"I think it’s exciting," Harris said of the addition of Harden. "It’s one of those things where just the talent, the level of play, but even just the energy and the camaraderie that we had, it felt like we had been playing together for a long time, even though this is the first time this group has ever taken the floor together.
"I thought even early on, it was like we were making too many extra passes, trying to get guys involved and sort of people trying to be aggressive, take the shots they normally would take. It was like everybody was trying to make that extra one, get everybody a touch, get everybody involved.
"It was awesome to see, but at the same time, it’s one of those things where it’s the first time playing together and everybody is feeling each other out. But we came together a little bit more in that second half."
Asked how tough the Nets will be to defend when Irving returns to the lineup, Harris said: "Yeah, I think it’s a very difficult task defensively. You’ve got Kevin, who can do it at all three levels. You have James, who can do it at all three levels, and you have Kyrie, who can do it at all three levels.
"A lot has been put on their scoring prowess, but they make the right play. It’s an unbelievable luxury in this league."