Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden had a brief chat at practice recently to determine who would be the point guard for the team.
“I feel like he’s been doing a great job of just managing the point guard role,” Irving said following Brooklyn’s 134-117 win over the Warriors Saturday night. “We established that maybe four days ago. I just looked at him and I said, ‘You’re the point guard, and I’m going to play shooting guard.’ That was as simple as that. He’s been taking control of the responsibilities and doing an incredible job. It just makes my job easier to just go out and play free and just make plays. It’s a luxury. I just want to continue it.”
Harden, a two-time assists leader, is on his way to leading the league for the third time in that category as he leads the league with 11.2 assists per game.
“It’s easy to play off somebody that’s willing to compliment your game and ready to sacrifice, and it’s easier to do so for me,” Irving said. “I think I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to show that playing with other great players, not just a (Team) USA or All-Star games, but capable of fitting in into a high-level group not just with scoring or passing, just continuing to do the little things and the details to win. That’s all I’m focused on.”
This season, Irving has been as lethal a scorer as ever and averaged career-highs in field goal percentage (.525), free throw percentage (.951), and points per game (27.6).
Harden ranks ninth on the NBA’s all-time usage percent leaderboard (30.57) while Kevin Durant ranks 12th (30.12) and Irving ranks 16th (29.28). However, the three-time NBA scoring leader knew his scoring would decline coming to the Nets and being the primary playmaker as he noted in late January.
James Harden: “I was in a role for 8 years controlling the ball, dominating the ball. Now, it’s a different experience for me, but it’s still great. It’s still basketball at the end of the day. I’m lucky to be able to do more than just one thing on the basketball court. It’s fun"
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 26, 2021
Harden echoed a similar sentiment following Brooklyn’s win over Golden State.
“I came to this team knowing they have two special scorers on this team,” Harden said. “Obviously, I score when I need to, but as long as I’m getting everybody involved and Kyrie is getting the shots he wants, KD is getting the shots he wants, it’s pretty efficient. It seems to work well that way.”
For Irving, it’s not the first time he’s played off the ball and shared playmaking duties. He did so alongside LeBron James during their time together with the Cavaliers. In Cleveland, Irving was able to win a championship alongside James, and he believes he can win another one as part of Brooklyn’s talented trio.
“I think this just goes back to what I said for the past few weeks, it’s just not taking any day for granted,” Irving said. “We don’t want to take our greatness for granted in terms of where it is now, and then we want to hold each other accountable to reach another level in terms of the long term.”
Brooklyn now is the third seed in the East and trails the top spot by only 2.5 games.
“Just trying to build some camaraderie out there and just have fun dominating,” Irving said after Brooklyn’s trio played just their seventh game together.
On Tuesday, Feb. 9th, Irving warned the rest of the league what would happen when the Nets collectively turned the corner.
“I’m telling you, the league’s going to be on notice when that happens,” Irving proclaimed.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto