James Harden gives Nets three All-Stars for first time

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Brooklyn’s Big 3 officially became an All-Star 3, when James Harden was named to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the March 7 All-Star Game.

It marks the first time the Nets have had three All-Stars in the same season.

Durant and Irving had been selected as starters, and Harden will head to Atlanta as a reserve, having just been edged out by Irving in the voting among Eastern Conference guards. But considering Harden’s stellar play since joining the Nets, he’s closer to being an MVP contender than he was to being an All-Star snub.

“James, I mean, clearly an All-Star, all-world player has brought so much to our team: leadership, playmaking and scoring the ball,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said before Tuesday night’s official announcement on TNT. “He’s been outstanding. We’re grateful to have him.”

It marked the ninth consecutive year Harden has been named an All-Star, the second-longest active streak of such selections behind LeBron James’ 17 straight. (Durant has been named in the past 11 seasons he’s played, missing 2019-20 following Achilles surgery).

James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
Getty Images

“For the All-Star Game, that’s always a blessing. That means you’re doing something right, that means you’re playing extremely well up to that point,” Harden said scoring 29 points to go along with 14 assists and 11 rebound in the Nets’ 127-118 win over the Kings on Tuesday. “You never want to take opportunities like that for granted. So I’m blessed. I’m fortunate to be a part of my ninth All-Star Game.”

As the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, Durant will captain and pick Team Durant. He’ll choose against James in the 2021 NBA All-Star Draft, set to be televised on TNT on March 4 at 8 p.m.

With James getting the top pick in the first round (when starters are selected), that means Durant will get first choice from the reserve pool. It’s hard to picture a better résumé than Harden, who is making a case for another MVP trophy.

Since joining the Nets in a four-team mega-trade, Harden came into Tuesday averaged 24.9 points on white-hot 50.2 percent shooting overall and 41 percent from deep. But even more than his own offense, he’s made everybody else better.

He saw a Brooklyn team that’d struggled on the glass, so he’s averaged 8.3 rebounds, on pace for a career-high. He’s taken an elite offense and made it historic, handing out a league-high 11.4 assists — on pace for another career-best.

“I don’t want to diminish how great he is, because I kind of expected this; you’ve seen him play so many times,” Nash said. “I will say this: It’s even more impressive when he’s on your team and he’s throwing in step-back 3s in crunch time. That is a beautiful thing to have in your arsenal.

“I would say though, what’s popped more to me, being here working with him, is his leadership, his attitude, his commitment. A total pro, and he’s been such an important piece, not only on the floor but the way he’s been a leader to this group. That to me, I didn’t know what to expect, and it’s been amazing to see what kind of leader and professional he is.”

That leadership has been apparent with Harden not only helping Brooklyn survive, but thrive during Durant’s five-game injury absence. The Nets are 13-5 when Harden plays, and 5-1 when he starts alongside Durant and Irving.

“He’s a very willing passer. He’s a smart player. He gets it,” Landry Shamet said. “He understands what defenses are trying to do most of the time, and he’s a guy who wants to get others involved because he understands the value of that not only for himself but for the rest of the team.

“It’s been great playing with him. He’s a good leader, a good communicator, and we’re still continuing to grow, too. There’s plenty of room left for us to grow and develop. But he’s been great.”

The Nets haven’t had more than two All-Stars since Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, Billy Paultz and Brian Taylor made the cut back in 1974-75. But that was when they were still in the ABA and in the midst of a nomadic existence. This Big 3 offers a different level of promise … and a shot at an NBA title.

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