The Brooklyn Nets are the NBA’s latest superteam, an offensive juggernaut featuring two former MVPs in Kevin Durant and James Harden and the owner of one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history in Kyrie Irving, who also is widely considered to have the best handles the sport has seen.
But LeBron James wasn’t ready to declare the trio an unprecedented ensemble when asked about Brooklyn ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers’ first game against the new-look Nets on Thursday.
“Um, have we forgot about KD, Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) already?” James said following the Lakers’ 112-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. “I mean, there you go. There you go right there.”
James knows that Golden State Warriors group well — it beat his Cleveland Cavaliers for back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018.
But the most points Durant, Curry and Thompson ever averaged in their three seasons together was 75.8 per game in 2018-19.
Durant (29.0), Irving (28.3) and Harden (23.9) entered Tuesday averaging 80.7 points for the Nets this season.
Thursday’s showdown will be missing some firepower. L.A. will be without Anthony Davis, who suffered a calf strain and aggravated the Achilles tendinosis in his right leg Sunday. He will see team doctors when the Lakers return home Wednesday.
“We’ll see how he responds to treatment and reevaluate in a couple weeks,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday.
On the other side, Durant has been listed as out for Thursday, the third straight game he will miss because of a left hamstring strain. Irving, who sat out Tuesday’s comeback win against the Phoenix Suns with tightness in his lower back, is listed as probable against the Lakers.
That said, James said he is looking forward to seeing these Nets in person for the first time.
“It’s always exciting for me to go against some of the best guys in the game — and they got three of them,” he said. “They got three of the best guys in the game. Definitely would love to be full when you’re playing against a team like that and see, like, at that point in the season, how you match up — how you match up against some of the best teams in the league. And, obviously, we won’t be full on Thursday. But, other than that, yeah, I love going out there and just being out on the floor with some of the best to play this game.”
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James’ teammate Montrezl Harrell was less enthusiastic. He was a part of the NBA’s shiny new toy with the LA Clippers last season, when the historically underachieving franchise added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and became instant favorites to win the title.
Perhaps going through all that hype, only to be part of the Clippers’ second-round playoff exit to the Denver Nuggets, taught Harrell that the regular season isn’t always the best indicator of postseason success.
“Honestly, I don’t really care,” Harrell said. “We go into every game with a game plan, know offensively, defensively what we want to do in order to win that game, and that’s going to be the same thing we’re going to have to do when we play on Thursday.
“There’s nothing no different. We’re not circling that game. We’re not putting any extra emphasis on that game. It’s just like any other game — we’re taking it one game at a time. We’re still learning, we’re still growing and we’re still building with one another, and we’re gonna have to do it to a higher standard with losing one of our big pieces [in Davis].”
Nets head coach Steve Nash said his team is fully aware of the “tremendous challenge” that awaits the Nets in their first meeting with the Lakers.
“We know who they have over there,” he said after Brooklyn’s 128-124 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night. “We know how well they’re coached and what they’ve been able to do in the last year or so. So it’s a great test for us. You load the guys up and be ready to go and try to keep getting better.”
Nets guard James Harden had a different take, saying the team is more concerned about improving as a unit than it is about its opponent, even if it’s the Lakers.
“Obviously, offensively we’re really, really good. Defensively, we’re not so great,” he said. “So we have to find ways to be better in that category, which we all know. So we’re working on that, and whether it’s the Lakers or any other team, that doesn’t get us excited because we’re still working on ourselves, if that makes sense.
“Obviously, we understand that caliber of team we’re playing. But then, the whole situation is, we are working on ourselves. So the Indianas and Sacramentos and Golden States and tonight in Phoenix — any of those games we could’ve lost and we can beat the Lakers, and it only counts as one win and one loss.”
ESPN’s Malika Andrews contributed to this report.