The Nets went through their second full training-camp workout on Monday, and new coach Steve Nash is wrestling with questions about how to fit the pieces of one of the NBA’s deepest rosters around superstar centerpieces Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It’s a formidable challenge.
But an even bigger challenge might be the job Nash faces in terms of the uncertainty that has surrounded the team since three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden let it be known that he wants the Rockets to trade him to the Nets.
The question that is sure to follow the Nets this season is whether their deep pool of talent will turn into the ammunition they need to trade for a third major star in Harden.
Asked how he is dealing with the elephant in the locker room in terms of trade rumors, Nash said: "I guess we let the elephant be. I love our guys, and hopefully they all feel really valued, wanted and respected. We have so many guys that bring so much to the table. When I’m in the gym with them every day, I feel fortunate, so hopefully they feel that and they don’t feel we’re looking out the window at greener pastures.
"We love what we have here, and hopefully our behavior every day commits [to] that and guys feel comfortable, valued and supported and striving for something individually and collectively."
It’s all speculation now because the Rockets have a new coach, Stephen Silas, and recently traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall to pair with Harden in their backcourt. But the time soon may come for Nets general manager Sean Marks to choose between a third major star and the incredible depth on the roster he has put together.
Asked about standing pat or sacrificing depth for a third superstar, Nash said: "It’s a great question because it’s almost impossible to answer. Depth obviously gives you an opportunity to support your star players. But a lot of it comes down to how good is your depth and how good are the two stars versus the three stars. And how is the chemistry and all of those ancillary factors that really are the details that make it work or not work or allow them to get to the end of the road.
"There’s pros and cons to both. I don’t really think about it because I love the team we have. Trying to find minutes for all the guys we have is a great headache to have, and that’s all I’m focused on."
According to the Houston Chronicle, Rockets sources have said they are "prepared to be uncomfortable" with Harden’s trade request because they want to keep him in place. But he immediately put that to the test by failing to take part in the first two practices. ESPN’s Tim McMahon reported that as of Monday, Harden still had not returned to Houston for his individual workouts and to go through COVID-19 protocols but is expected to report soon.
When Silas was asked about Harden on Monday, he said, "He’s not here and he has a reason, but that’s on him to tell whoever what the reason is."
Despite the ongoing drama, the Nets must focus on themselves because the shortened preseason will make it tough to come together quickly.
"We’re going to be behind it a little bit as far as common experiences," Nash said. "[But] we have a lot of experience in our locker room and we’ll try to overcome it by trying to control the things we can control, like executing, fighting, having that connectivity. We’re trying to build that now, and hopefully with a lot of success."