When Rockets star James Harden requested a trade to the Nets recently, it was for the specific purpose of trying to reunite with former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant to try and win an NBA championship. But when Durant was asked on Wednesday about the prospect of Harden joining the Nets, he was having none of it.
"Uh, I don’t think about James Harden at all," Durant said. "He doesn’t play on our team."
Fair enough. But what about a Nets roster that is one of the deepest in the NBA? Do the Nets, as currently constructed, have enough talent to win a championship? Durant liked that question better.
"It’s early in the season," Durant said. "It’s training camp, and guys are still learning each other and still learning the offense and defense, but I am very excited about the future of this group. I’ve never been one to predict anything, but I like our chances of going out there and competing at that high level every single night. And as tough as that is in this league, I think we’re capable of doing that.
"We’ve got a lot of guys who have experienced so much in this league. We’ve got champions on this team, we’ve got guys that have been in playoff runs, been in Game 7s, so, it’s always important to have that much experience and knowledge within the group."
As a former NBA MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP, Durant will be the Nets’ centerpiece even though he is coming back from an 18-month layoff following surgery to repair his ruptured right Achilles tendon. But he is on a team that includes Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert in the starting backcourt plus high-quality backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie coming off the bench.
Three practices into training camp, Durant loves the talent level he sees on the court. "We’ve got such a talented group," Durant said. "You’ve got guys who can do multiple things on the floor with the basketball. It brings the best out of everybody, having Spencer and Caris going at it every day, Kyrie, myself going at it, [center DeAndre Jordan] and Jarrett [Allen] going at it every day.
"That just breeds that competition. It’s a healthy competition. It’s not like guys are wanting another guy’s spot. It’s more so we want to push each other because we know it’s going to help with the end goal."
Durant said the opportunity to spend a full season with the Nets after signing his four-year deal worth $164 million when he joined them as a free agent in the summer of 2019 helped smooth his transition.
New coach Steve Nash has indicated Durant likely will start at power forward but can be used at any position, including being a "point forward," bringing the ball upcourt to playing a small-ball center.
"Coach is just going to throw me out there and see how I respond," Durant said.
The Nets play only two preseason games, starting with a home date on Sunday against the Wizards.
Asked how he wants to be utilized as he begins his comeback for real, Durant said, "I guess it’s seeing how long I can play now. And I’m talking with the training staff and the coaching staff to see what my load will be for this first preseason game.
"But as far as schemes and how I fit on the offense and defense, I think coach is going to use me in a variety of ways, especially as a small-ball five and four sometimes and bringing the ball up too, so I’ve just got to be ready for anything. I’m just looking forward to seeing how my body responds and how we respond as a team in my first game."