The Brooklyn Nets' goal has stayed the same even despite Kyrie Irving's absence from the team; win an NBA championship. After Kyrie was removed from the team due to the vaccine mandate in New York, the Nets were left with 2 superstars in Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Many fans feel that this duo can still lead the Nets to an NBA championship. But Harden's slow start to the season has not validated those claims. Harden has been significantly affected by the NBA's new foul rules, and now struggles to make it to the free-throw line as often as he used to.
Harden is currently averaging 4.6 free-throw attempts for the season, his lowest since his sophomore season in the NBA when he was playing for Oklahoma City. On top of that, the rule change has also, in some people's minds, led to a bias against Harden since he isn't getting calls that most other players normally would.
Kevin Durant, on the other hand, has been spectacular. For the season, he is averaging 29.5 points per game, the highest since his 2014 MVP season, and 56% of his field goals. At this rate, he could join LeBron James as the only non-bigs to average 25+ points on more than 55% shooting in an NBA season.
In a recent interview, NBA legend Scottie Pippen was asked if the Nets can win an NBA championship without Kyrie Irving. He said that if James Harden can get back in shape, and play alongside KD, who is unstoppable right now, they can help the Nets win the title. But he did maintain that Kyrie is an important player for the Nets.
“Not if James Harden can get in shape. I’m not going to say they can win without him. He definitely is a guy that can help them. But Kevin Durant right now is an unstoppable player, and we started to see this last year in the playoffs. If he continues on this kind of role and starts to utilize his team a little bit better, I think they can possibly win without him.”
Slowly, but surely, Harden is finding his rhythm. After notching a triple-double against the Detroit Pistons, James Harden said that he feels like he is getting better and will eventually get back to his best.
If Harden can get back to his best and join KD, who is performing at the highest level, the Nets will regain their spot as the favorites to win the NBA championship. But their run won't be easy, given how teams like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls have vastly improved the Eastern Conference.