James Harden will start Saturday night in his Brooklyn Nets debut against the Orlando Magic.
The three-time NBA scoring champion became available to play earlier in the day after all the players in the blockbuster trade that sent him from Houston to Brooklyn completed their physicals.
Nets coach Steve Nash immediately put Harden into the starting lineup. He said he would determine as the game goes along whether he needed to limit the All-Star guard's minutes, saying the Nets “don’t want to run the batteries down on our new Christmas present this early.”
Harden has not practiced with the Nets and Nash said the team would try to keep things simple Saturday, though expected Harden to catch on quickly.
“James is a brilliant basketball player, so he’s going to figure out how to make problems for the defense no matter what we do just being on the floor,” Nash said.
Harden had been listed as questionable to play before the Nets upgraded him to available about two hours before the game. It was around the same time that the Indiana Pacers announced they had acquired Caris LeVert, the Nets guard who was part of the deal that also included Cleveland.
The Nets remained without Kyrie Irving for a sixth straight game after he left the team for personal reasons. Nash said Irving was hopefully close to returning, but the Nets wanted to make sure he ramped up accordingly after his layoff. Their next game is Monday against Milwaukee.
Whenever he does return, the Nets will be able to put their three superstars onto the floor. That will require another adjustment for Harden, especially because the team is practicing so infrequently in this season's condensed schedule.
“Tonight is a first step, having him play a real game with us after not really any preparation time,” Nash said. “This is a moving target that we have try to incorporate him as we go here and learn on the fly.”
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