Nets’ Harden, Durant, Irving beginning to find balance in ‘Big 3’ project

James Harden Nets
James Harden continues to find his balance alongside his Nets superstar teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Think of Brooklyn’s “Big 3” as the top three members of a school’s graduating class being put together for a group project. There isn’t just the prodigy who carries the group, the one providing comic relief, and the other who does nothing and rides the coattails to an “A+”.

All three have their distinctive styles and want to put their mark on the final product.

Following the acquisition of James Harden and the return of Kyrie Irving, the Nets have three of the decade’s greatest players; all of whom are sharing the same ball on the same floor at the same time. Egos were expected to be tested as the trio of superstars combine for 24 All-Star game appearances, 7 scoring titles, 3 championships, and 2 MVPs.

It’s a concept many initially questioned when the Nets pulled off the blockbuster earlier this month to acquire Harden from the Houston Rockets.

While awaiting Irving’s return, Harden went off for 32 and 34 points in his first two games as a Net. Since Irving got back on the floor, Harden has averaged 18 points in his last four games, including just 10 in the first three quarters of Monday night’s victory over the Miami heat — opting to play more of a facilitator role as he’s averaging 10.5 assists during that stretch.

Meanwhile, Irving averaged 34.3 points in his first three games back while Durant added 34.5 points over two appearances.

“I was in a role for eight years, controlling the ball, dominating the ball,” Harden said of his time with the Rockets. “Now it’s a different experience for me, but it’s still great.

“It’s still basketball at the end of the day and I’m lucky to be able to do more than one thing on the basketball court. So it’s fun. It’s a game within the game. You have to pick and choose when to be aggressive, when to let your shooters get going, when to let KD and Kyrie get going. And once we get a rhythm and get a flow and start to feel each other out more, it’ll be a lot easier for us.”

When needed in crunch time on Monday, Harden took over, scoring 10 points in the final quarter to see out a 98-85 victory — all the while covering for Durant, who shot 6-of-21 from the field for 20 points, and Irving, who was 6-of-17 for 16.

Always nice to have that third superstar in your back pocket if you’re the Nets.

“It does a lot for us,” Durant said. “We rely on him to make plays for us and just be himself, whatever the game presents you gotta be prepared for it… So any given night it could be anybody and tonight James was great for us.”

And truly a nightmare situation for the rest of the league. According to the “Big 3,” who have gone 4-2 since Harden’s arrival, it’s only a matter of time until things really start to click

“I’m figuring it out,” Harden said. “It’s only been five games and that’s what we have a long season for. Once we all find that balance, our team will be way better.”

The learning process continues and class is well underway.

“It’s like he just transferred to a new school and he’s trying to figure out the new curriculum,” Durant added.