It was a deal involving a superstar player, James Harden, for the Houston Rockets, going to an Eastern Conference team, the Brooklyn Nets, with another team—the Cavaliers—involved. There was a subsequent deal, too, with the Indiana Pacers moving Victor Oladipo to the Rockets for Caris Levert. There was, on the surface, nothing to do with LeBron James and/or the Lakers in the Wednesday blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Brooklyn and shook up the NBA.
And yet, in the aftermath of the trade, it seemed that it was all about LeBron James. That was especially true for one of his most consistent and harshest critics—Skip Bayless of Undisputed on Fox Sports.
Bayless’ response to the prospect of putting together James Harden: “Say goodnight, LeBron.”
Say goodnight, LeBron.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 13, 2021
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Well, that is certainly saying something about what, exactly, Bayless thinks about the outlook of a Nets Big Three consisting of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and very little depth around them. It’s a bold statement considering the trio has yet to play a game together and now stars an out-of-shape malcontent from the Rockets, a star point guard (Irving) who just decided he did not feel like playing the past week and Durant, who has been outstanding and consistent.
Nick Wright: ‘3 HOFers’ Needed to Beat LeBron James
Now, there were certainly more reasoned takes involving James out there. The Lakers remain the top team in the Western Conference and are still the defending champs. They’ve reconfigured their team and while they might not be the same group they were defensively last year, they are a better offensive team.
Besides, as Nick Wright, also of Fox Sports, pointed out, the only proven way to consistently beat James has been with three Hall of Famers on board. The Nets, at least, have that.
You’ve gotta like the move for the Nets.
In the last decade, the only way to beat LeBron is to have at least 3 HOFers, and even then it’s not a sure thing (‘13 OKC, ‘14 SAS & ‘16 GSW).
But without at least 3, you’re drawing dead. So at least BK has a seat at the table now.
— nick wright (@getnickwright) January 13, 2021
Josh Eberly of HOOP magazine pointed out that, even if he returns to the team eager to play, Irving could still potentially be a problem for the Nets. He pointed to Irving’s jealousy over the way James was treated when they were together in Cleveland.
In Brooklyn, playing with Harden and Durant, Irving will be the third-best player. If he had trouble handling being second-best alongside James, will playing third fiddle be an issue?
Kyrie didn’t like the team catering to LeBron over him and he’s now the third most valuable player on this Brooklyn team. I dunno, I dunno
— Josh Eberley🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) January 13, 2021
Kendrick Perkins: LeBron Not the Only One Who ‘Needs a Stack Team’
Then there is Kendrick Perkins, the ESPN analyst who was also briefly a teammate of James’ in Cleveland in 2014-15 and again in 2018. While he, too, wondered about Irving’s willingness to fit in with his teammates, he was more concerned about the cadre of critics who pile on James for needing, “a stack team to win rings.” Perkins continued, “because apparently EVERYONE does!”
I wonder if Kyrie is going to sacrifice…btw I don’t want to hear no more Lebron James needs a stack team to win rings because apparently EVERYONE does! Carry on…
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 13, 2021
In the end, getting Harden out of the West really only benefits James and the Lakers. True, the Nets, if they pull together their chemistry, are a potentially viable threat to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, but with the dissolution of the Rockets, there are fewer and fewer real threats to the Lakers in the conference.
The Nuggets are below .500. The Trail Blazers (6-4) and Mavericks (5-4) have been so-so this season, while the Clippers have been steady but unimpressive. Maybe Yahoo! Sports’ NBA tweet is the only one that mentioned James that had it right.
LeBron seeing the Nets trade for Harden pic.twitter.com/V80574GDYl
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 13, 2021