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Nets' Big 3 going through growing pains and embracing their talent

Nets guard Kyrie Irving celebrates with guard James

Nets guard Kyrie Irving celebrates with guard James Harden in the third quarter of an NBA game against the Clippers on Tuesday at Barclays Center. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Of course people were worried about the egos.

When you have three superstars together on a super-team like the Nets, it was only natural for outsiders to wonder if they could coexist. But it seems as if James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are proving doubters wrong — and it isn’t despite the egos, Durant said, but because of them.

In a SiriusXM conversation with Mike Krzyzewski, who coached him in the Olympics, Durant said there was a level of hesitation among the Big 3 when they first got together, but they’ve learned to adapt.

"I remembered those conversations you [Krzyzewski] would have with us [when you were coaching the Olympics] and telling us like, ‘You guys have egos and it’s good to have egos,’ " Durant told him on "Basketball and Beyond with Coach K." " ‘We need you to bring that to the team. But at certain moments, certain guys are going to shine more than others.’ "

Durant said he went through similar growing pains with Golden State.

"We need everybody to be themselves," he said. "Early on, James was passing too much, I felt like, and then he started to be aggressive to score. Then Kyrie, the same way. And now we’re starting to feed off each other."

The Nets have a 116.1 offensive efficiency, second in the league, and have posted a 120.1 rating since the Harden trade. The trio totaled 90 points in Tuesday’s 124-120 win over the Clippers, with Harden kicking in 14 assists. He has been a beacon of adaptability — facilitating the scoring of Durant and Irving and switching to a scoring role when needed.

Harden is averaging 11.2 assists per game (12.0 with the Nets), which matches his career high. His scoring average of 24.4 points per game is the lowest it’s been since the 2011-12 season, but with this team, that works just fine.

"As a coach, you always worry" about chemistry, Steve Nash said. "I feel like there’s a synergy that’s possible. I think it’s been pretty quick in how willing they are to play off each other or to not unsettle the trio or the group, which is great, and they still have a long way to go.

"They can get a lot better in their connectivity and their collective play, but for an early review, it’s been really positive in just the fact of how willing they are to share and to root for one another, and that’s the foundation of something special."

Irving agrees, and said he’s enjoyed watching it develop.

"It’s great to have Kevin Durant yell at you to get in the right spot, or have James Harden give you a cue with his eyes to be in the right spot because they’re so great," Irving said earlier this week. "So sometimes you get caught watching, and we’ve just got to stay active and do the little things for those guys to complement them, and that goes back with sacrifice and compromise, all of us. Sometimes it’s not going to be a 39-point night for me, and I’m OK with that."

And when that happens, Irving seems certain his counterparts will step up.

"The beautiful thing is that we’re interchangeable," he said. "Some nights, one of us can have a big night, the other guy can have multiple assists, multiple rebounds, and like I said, we just want to complement each other well as a group. I don’t want to get too stuck on talking about us three, but we do lead this group with the other guys."

All-Star Game OK with Nash. Though Nash is very worried about the minutes his superstars are racking up, he said he’s not worried about the NBA’s decision to host an All-Star Game this year. The game will be held in Atlanta, where COVID-19 numbers are high.

"I get cold sweats thinking about how many minutes all these guys are playing, but that’s just the nature of this season and all the things that have been thrown at us, so I’ll leave that at that," he said. "I trust that [the NBA] will create a bubble that’s safe for that game. I trust that they have experience now with the bubble and this pseudo-bubble that we’re living in right now, and that they’ll put the players in a position to be safe."

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