After the Nets pulled off a shocking trade for James Harden, scouts and oddsmakers were looking at them as legitimate contenders to knock off the Lakers and win an NBA title. But that will only be the case if the Nets sacrifice, and that includes their Big 3, especially Kyrie Irving.
“Basketball is about playing together and being the best you can be. So, no matter who you are it’s about finding connectivity and balance within a team and trying to be greater than the sum of your parts,” coach Steve Nash said. “So, that doesn’t change no matter what your team looks like, and that’s definitely a goal and a thread of our team from Day One.”
After the Nets shipped out Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs in the deal, they could have used Irving on Wednesday against the Knicks. The All-Star missed a fifth straight game for personal reasons, and could miss more if the NBA mandates a quarantine for health and safety protocols.
Irving was caught on video going maskless at a family birthday party amid a sizeable gathering. Nash wouldn’t say whether that played a role in the deal.
“I hate to continue with this thread, but I’m not really going to comment on either, the details of the rumors or Kyrie’s situation. I don’t know that it gets us anywhere today. Apologies. Sorry,” said Nash, who also passed on a question about trying to fit high-usage stars like Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant together.
“That’s a great hypothetical. We can address that another time. But I haven’t had an opportunity to know any new details about Kyrie’s situation. So I’ll just rely on the front office to learn more as we go. They’re the ones that are going to do the messaging on that front.”
Scouts who spoke with The Post unanimously said adding Harden was a good move that could make the Nets a contender, but that Irving will have a to sacrifice to make it work.
“On paper obviously that team wins the East and probably the whole thing,” said Bryan Oringher, formerly a scout with the Raptors, Hawks and Wizards. “But it all depends if they’re willing to do a Warriors-type thing and all sacrifice. [Harden’s] obviously incredible, but none of them seem super happy without the ball.”
Former 76ers scout Michael Vandegarde told The Post that there is going to be inherent risk involved with such a volatile mix, but that it’s a gamble worth taking.
“The Harden-Kyrie-Durant problem would be a great problem to have as well,” Vandegarde said. “If you give it a chance and it fails, you can always trade Harden, as he should maintain his value. If you have to move Kyrie, his value will go down, and I’d never trade Durant.
“Three stars is much better than two stars. But the stars really need to complement each other; I don’t think those three complement each other at all. … Kyrie thinks he’s the man always, even when he isn’t. He struggles to make others better. … I’m nervous Kyrie will not defer to Durant in crunch time like he should. Steph [Curry] was willing: I don’t think Kyrie is.
“All three of them think they’re the man, and Durant is the man.”
The Nets have three open roster spots, their $5.7 million taxpayer Mid Level Exception and — in all likelihood — a Disabled Player Exception worth $5.7 million. They also got a 2024 second-round pick from Cleveland, according to ESPN.