LOS AGELES (AFP) — The Brooklyn Nets limbered up for the expected arrival of James Harden in a blockbuster National Basketball Association (NBA) trade with a 116-109 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Star forward Kevin Durant scored 26 points to lead seven Nets players in double figures — a performance all the more impressive with just nine Brooklyn players available.
News that the Houston Rockets would send their disgruntled star Harden to Brooklyn in a four-team deal electrified the league on Wednesday.
It had yet to be confirmed, but the four players reported to be on their way out of Brooklyn — Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince were unavailable and, according to coach Steve Nash, not at Madison Square Garden.
Durant, however, scoffed at the suggestion the proposed deal had made for “drama and chaos” around a team already dealing with the absence of Kyrie Irving for undisclosed personal reasons.
“The game simply is enough for us,” Durant said.
“The guys are coming out there enjoying playing every day no matter what the circumstance is.”
“There’s a lot going on throughout the season, and in this world right now, but basketball is one thing everybody in this locker room enjoys.”
Durant, back this season after missing an entire campaign recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, played on back-to-back nights for the first time, logging 30 minutes and connecting on 10 of 18 shots from the field, including three from three-point range.
The Nets, with Durant and Irving healthy, were already expected to contend in the East. The addition of former Most Valuable Player Harden — the league’s top scorer the past three seasons — would only enhance their ability to challenge in a conference in which the Milwaukee Bucks have led the way the past two seasons only to come up short in the playoffs.