Couch: With Harden Deal, Nets Are Megateam, But For How Long?

It’s going to be hard not to stare. James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant all together on one court at the same time on one team, the Brooklyn Nets?

With one basketball? This is an explosion waiting to happen, with only rookie coach Steve “White Privilege’’ Nash to hold it together.

He can’t. He won’t.

Kaboom! The Nets traded with Houston for James Harden Wednesday. It was a multi-team, multi-player deal, but the big winner was Houston for getting rid of Harden and getting an All-Star player in Victor Oladipo and three of Brooklyn’s upcoming first-round picks. More from other teams, too.

The Nets get a version of a modern megateam with three superstars and the talent to win an NBA Championship. Just to be clear, they are never going to win it. They just have the talent to do it. The only question is whether to call the inevitable an implosion or an explosion.

Harden forced the trade with an interesting strategy. He was so desperate to alter his image as regular-season stud, postseason dud, that he blew up his own Houston team, tore down his teammates, quit during games, partied without masks and ate his way into a Dad bod.

He basically made himself so unbearable to have around that the Rockets had to get rid of him. It’s an interesting way to sell yourself as a superstar basketball player and teammate.

“I literally have done everything I can,’’ Harden said a few days ago, ripping his teammates with one final Houston-based mope. “I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something I don’t think can be fixed.’’

And then Houston fixed it.

It will be hard to take your eyes off of Brooklyn now. And that’s what the NBA and its TV partners, so desperate for eyeballs and fans, are going to rely on. People wouldn’t even watch a few months ago when the marquee moment (the championship), was played by the marquee team, (Los Angeles Lakers) and won by the marquee player (LeBron James).

It was the perfect storm to put Irving and Harden under the same roof. Both of them have been annoying as hell this year. There’s nothing quite like seeing guys making $40 million a year complain about their plight. 

They are the poster children of the league this year, and it’s not even a social justice theme.

Irving said he didn’t want to talk with reporters -- who does? -- and called them “pawns” distracting him from his art. Or something like that. Hey, Kyrie, you’re a basketball player and part of your job is to get your face out there to promote your team and league.

He now has disappeared for "personal reasons," missing several games while getting his photo taken at parties.

Last year, the NBA banked on social justice messaging from a bubble. That flopped, and they vowed to tone down the Black Lives Matter stuff. 

Now they should change the league messaging from BLM to STFU.

It’s hard to see what was so unbearable about Harden's life. He was making $40 million a year to bounce a basketball and have people cheer for him at a time when so many people can’t find a job.

Irving was already a career pouter, if that’s a word. Who knows what his problem is, or whether we should genuinely be worried for him.

Durant is going to be a key in this. He isn’t quite the ballhog that Irving and Harden are. And while Irving and Harden desperately try to reach that level of all-time great, Durant is actually already there.

But is Durant the type of guy who’s going to kick the butts of his fellow superstars? No.

We all saw a megateam revisited last year on ESPN’s “The Last Dance.’’ Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. How did they get along? Well, Pippen, for the most part, accepted his role as Jordan’s sidekick. Rodman had coach Phil Jackson masterfully keeping the waters calm.

But that Chicago Bulls dynasty had a few other elements. First off, if anyone got out of line, they had to answer to Jordan, who would literally throw punches at practice. Secondly, Rodman wasn’t looking to be the guy to score all the points. He wanted all the rebounds. Pippen found enough scraps from Jordan to become one of the all-time greats himself. Jordan was, well, the greatest player of all time. And they were all together in their distaste for Bulls management.

Irving and Harden want the ball. Period. Durant can adapt, but he’s going to want it, too. And the Nets might never play defense. If they could play together, they would put so much offense on opponents that they could bury anyone. But that would take teamwork. 

We’re seeing this happen in the NBA now, where stars basically talk to each other and form their own megateam. But that takes playing like the best, not just being known as the best.

There’s no way these guys can STFU. Even if Irving finds a way to get his head out of the clouds and Harden gets his out of his own backside, it won’t last. It takes more than talent. They might play great for a while, but keep your eyes on them. You never know when. . . 


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Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in and The Guardian. Couch penned articles and columns for Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.