Kevin Durant is second in the NBA in scoring. James Harden is dominating the game as much with his passing as his points.
But here’s the scary thing for the rest of the league: Steve Nash is convinced both of his superstars can — and will — get even better.
Nash said no matter what kind of hot streak Durant is on, the four-time scoring champ is still trying to get completely comfortable. Durant is coming off an 18-month layoff after rupturing his Achilles in June 2019, and even a brilliant 15 games doesn’t mean he’s 100 percent back.
“Obviously he’s playing great offensively, he’s still trying to get comfortable though,” Nash said. “That’s how good he is. He’s just a walking bucket. He’s out there on the floor, and he can fall into baskets just with his talent, skill, length, athleticism.
“So he looks great, he’s moving great, he’s scoring the ball well. I think he still has layers to go as he continues to feel more comfortable defensively, rebounding, rounding out his game, all the things that he’s been able to do outside of scoring.”
Durant goes into Friday’s game in Oklahoma City averaging 30.5 points, having topped 20 in every appearance this season, the longest run of his career. The Nets have won seven of the past eight games Durant has played, but Nash cautions there’s still another comfort level for Durant to get back to.
“That confidence, just feeling comfortable playing basketball again after such a long layoff, takes time,” Nash said. “No matter how good he is, how many points he scores, how many 30-point games in a row, I think he’s still trying to feel it himself. And that takes time.
“You can’t just not play for 18 months, have a short camp, start playing and feel it the first 10, 15 games. It might take another 10, 15 games. So, he’s been remarkable, because — with all those parameters and things I just mentioned — I still think he’s going to continue to feel more comfortable, more confident and round out his game.”
Harden’s improvement will only be partially physical.
James Harden and Kevin DurantCorey Sipkin
He’s been both trying to get back to peak physical condition and find his way in the Nets’ Big 3 without stepping on toes or disrupting the team’s chemistry.
Strides have clearly been made in each area the past week.
“I think both,” Nash said. “He’s getting comfortable with his surroundings, but he’s definitely getting in better shape. That’s important. He’s just going to get better the more comfortable he gets and the better shape he gets. If [Wednesday] is any indication, he’s going to have a huge influence on our team and make other players better.”
Harden is averaging an NBA-high 11.1 assists, but the three-time reigning scoring champ admits he’s been straddling the line of having to be more aggressive. Bruce Brown flatly said when Harden is in attack mode, “We’re unbeatable. We want him to be aggressive. Sometimes he’s a little too passive.”
It wasn’t a problem in Wednesday’s 132-128 overtime win in Atlanta, with Durant (32 points), Harden (31) and Kyrie Irving (26 points) the first Nets trio to each top 25 points since 2015. But they’re capable of making the historic routine, as they learn how best to complement each other.
As the Nets build trust — Harden trusting that he can be aggressive without being disruptive, new teammates trusting each other’s defensive help — they’re confident they can get to another level.
“That’s a great foundation is trust to build any great team. That definitely takes a lot of patience. Then we have to do it with sacrifice and compromise as well. [But] I’m not compromising anything by allowing James to be James,” Irving said. “James is going to be James.
“My thing, whenever I’m out there, is to complement him, and then the same thing with Kevin and everyone else. We want to complement each other well. So, envy and jealously as young men are definitely emotions that you can get caught up in, but at this point we don’t want to take this for granted. We know this doesn’t happen often. Very lucky.”
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/01/28/nets-james-harden-kevin-durant-getting-even-better/ on .