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Nets GM Sean Marks explains why he bet the house on James Harden

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — The Nets made official their trade for Rockets star James Harden, and pending the passing of physicals of all players involved in the deal, the former league MVP can suit up for Brooklyn’s next game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Harden who averaged 35 points per game through each of his last two seasons in Houston, now forms a Big 3 with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who is out on a personal leave of absence.

Nets general manager Sean Marks spoke to the media on Tuesday, explaining his rationale for dealing away seven years’ worth of first-round draft picks plus two franchise mainstays in Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen plus another two young rotation players in Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs.

“The timing was right for us,” Marks said. “This was something that came around relatively quickly, sped up very fast, but at the end of the day, it goes back to: When you have the opportunity to add James Harden to your roster, you’re certainly going to do your due diligence and do everything you possibly can to make that happen.”

Marks said on the conference call with reporters that both he and Nets governor Joe Tsai had separate conversations with their stars in hours leading up to an agreement on a Harden deal.

“I spoke to Ky and Kevin yesterday as this was going down, getting their thoughts and and really wanting to hear what their commitment was going to be, what their conviction for this was, and I know Joe Tsai had the same conversations,” Marks said. “So from multiple levels, it gets back to I enjoyed hearing that conviction, and we’ve got some time to see how it translates onto the court. I don’t think it’s immediate.”

 

Marks said it’s going to take time for this new group to begin to jell, but also said the stars need to buy in to sacrifice. That means usage rates — the metric of what percentage of total team offense one player generates — in Brooklyn will begin to flatten. Harden currently ranks 19th in usage rate but has been top four each of the four prior seasons, leading the league in two of them. Durant currently ranks seventh, and Irving is unranked because he has not played in enough games to register for some advanced metrics but has been top 10 in two of his last three healthy seasons.

“They understand what’s at stake here. Everybody has raised their hand and said, ‘Look, we’re in. We know what we’re shooting for here,’ ” Marks said. “And that includes James, the new player. He knows what’s at stake and I think, again, I am also banking on his prior relationship with Kevin. I think those guys have likely stayed in contact over the course of the last five, six, seven, eight, 10 years. So, they know each other very well and we’re going to bank on that coming here and hopefully speeding up that process.”

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Marks said the Nets organization is “without a doubt” disappointed Kyrie Irving is not currently with the team. Irving has missed the last five games for personal reasons, and while he is regularly COVID-19 testing and following the league’s health and safety protocol, there is no timetable for his return.

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