Three The Hard Way

Eric Rodas
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For the past two seasons, the Brooklyn Nets have been turning heads in the league when it comes to player acquisitions. But this seasons’ move to land long time Houston Rocket and former MVP James Harden may have given them the jolt forward they needed to make their Finals aspirations come true. Potentially as early as this season.

The accumulation of such talent may prove to be a very challenging managerial task for first time NBA Head Coach Steve Nash and his staff. 

It takes more than just talent to win in the NBA. The same challenges that face every team in the league during the season sometimes become amplified in an attempt to bring players of this magnitude together for one cause.

This team has the potential to become a delicate balancing act for Nash as he will undoubtedly learn that coaching, especially in this day and age, is more than just X’s and O’s. It is also about chemistry and sacrifice.

The first dilemma in the foreseeable future entails sacrifice. Historically in the NBA, when you assemble a big three, one of those talented individuals must sacrifice what they are used to doing for what is now required of them order to function as a unit.

Typically, positions filter out prospective roles on teams but the challenge facing Brooklyn will be the balance of two very ball dominant guards with similar skill sets in Harden and Kyrie Irving. This is not an impossible task but it will require a level of tact in accommodating the psyche of two very alpha-type players accustomed to being the centerpieces of their respective franchises. 

Another problem looming on the horizon is the fact that all three of these stars are high volume shooters. Irving is averaging 20.1 shot attempts while James Harden and Kevin Durant have been averaging 20 plus shot attempts in the two games played together without Irving.

It would be difficult to imagine that 60 shot attempts will be divided by the three while the rest of the team is parceled out what is left on a team that is averaging 87 shot attempts per game this season.

As an example, the Showtime Lakers of the 80’s that were known for high scoring and team oriented play never had a player average 20 shot attempts. A more modern standard would be the Golden State Warriors during Durant’s tenure. No one on that particular team averaged 20 shot attempts either. Someone will have to take fewer shots based on the patterns of statistical history. 

Case in point, Wednesday night’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers was an affirmation of what could theoretically become a problem down the road. Durant and Irving took 25 and 28 shots respectively, while Harden only managed to get 14 attempts in a double overtime loss.   

What could be the most difficult challenge facing Nash this season will be attempting to manage the different intricacies of each of his star player’s seemingly volatile personalities. Who will be willing to do what consistently for the greater cause?

Durant’s past doesn’t exactly say he handles strong willed players very well. Harden hasn’t had to play second fiddle to anyone as of late and Irving doesn’t seem to like to be second fiddle to anyone. Given the fact that Nash as a rookie coach has never had to deal with the gelling of large combustible personalities, this may become a very eye opening experience for the two time league MVP and his assistants.

However, all is not lost. There can be feasible alternatives when it comes to sharing the scoring load. Player rotations per quarter can be a possible means to spreading the scoring output for each star player, without necessarily assigning a shooting quota. This can also help with establishing an offensive identity that should develop as the season moves forward. 

Ball movement will be key as Durant and Irving, both 50% plus shooters this season, have demonstrated the ability to come off screens to catch and shoot, which would in effect keep Harden involved as a ball dominant playmaker who prefers scoring off of the dribble.

Defense should be the focus when it comes to adding players to their depleted roster due to the acquisition of Harden. Irving and Harden have proven to be crafty defenders when they have been inclined to do so and Durant has the length to block shots off of a help rotation.

The key will be to acquire sturdy veteran type talent with sound defensive I.Q.’s. They don’t need to be at the top of the league defensively. They just need to be adequate enough to make key stops during the course of the game.

As a footnote, with regard to everyone else’s concerns with defense, who exactly on Brooklyn’s experienced and well regarded staff is in charge of that department? Mike D’Antoni undoubtedly was brought in to help advise with the offensive side of the ball. While former Nets’ Head Coach Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka have spent time on the San Antonio Spurs’ bench, their experiences don’t speak to their knowledge nor their defensive acumen.

It is early in the season and I suppose time will tell. However, get ready for the fireworks because they have only just gotten together and they have been the talk of the town.

Eric Rodas

Los Angeles, California

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