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NBA Notebook: Harden gets a fresh start in Brooklyn

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

January 14th, 2021

The NBA has gone through a wild and exhausting week as COVID-19 runs through rosters and decimates starting lineups. Multiple games have now been postponed, and all of us are hoping we’re on the downside of the apex. Throughout it all, though, plenty of other on-court and off-court drama has persisted as well. Let’s take a look at the top stories throughout the Association in this week's NBA Notebook.

COVID-19 rips through the NBA

The league has now had at least nine games postponed because of COVID-19 protocols. Numerous players on the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, and Atlanta Hawks have all been impacted, while teams like the Boston Celtics are seeing extended time between games.

Numerous high-profile players have been impacted, and roster depletion and depth is affecting competitive balance. Let’s hope that some time to isolate allows the cases to cease, and we can continue playing games as effectively and fairly as the summer of 2020.

Kristaps Porzingis is back 

It is hard to believe that the "Unicorn" is only 25 years old. After suffering numerous injuries, the athletic 7'3" big man has finally made his return to the court. While last year’s playoff run showed that the Dallas Mavericks are Luka Doncic’s team, the presence of an elite complimentary talent like Porzingis will be important if Dallas is to make the leap from fringe underdog to legitimate contender.

Porzingis is a double-double threat every night, and was a big part of the most efficient offense in NBA history last season, as the Mavs scored 115.9 points per 100 possessions when he and Doncic shared the floor.

Toronto Raptors are cellar dwellers

Kawhi Leonard isn’t walking back through those doors. Just two years removed from winning an NBA Championship, and a year away from the second best record in the league, the Toronto Raptors now find themselves near the bottom of the standings with real cause for alarm.

At 2-8, they are in last place in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors are fifth-worst in the league in field goal percentage, and Kyle Lowry is not playing at his typical All-Star level. Lowry is shooting his worst field goal percentage since 2014-15 and is averaging 3.1 turnovers per game. Things will need to turn around quickly for the Raptors to challenge in the East.

James Harden is now a Net

Things were not well in Houston. In the offseason, Russell Westbrook was traded away to the Washington Wizards and general manager Daryl Morey chose to leave. With star James Harden seemingly disinterested in competing at the highest level, a trade deal was necessary to redirect the organization. Harden openly talked about how the Rockets weren’t good enough to win a championship, and was scoring less points on the court than the perennial All-Star has in years past.

With his trade to the Brooklyn Nets, the East now has a potential superstar team. Harden reconnects with former Oklahoma City teammate, Kevin Durant, and will pair with fellow All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. It is a massive deal, and one that nets the Rockets four first-round picks in their attempt to reset and restart thier roster. The Nets are now the favorites to win the East, assuming Harden will show a renewed interest on the court and his teammates buy-in as well.

NBA Championship 2020/2021

Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM

Los Angeles Lakers

+250

Brooklyn Nets

+300

Milwaukee Bucks

+600

Los Angeles Clippers

+600

Philadelphia 76ers

+1600

Miami Heat

+1800

Boston Celtics

+1800

Denver Nuggets

+2000

Dallas Mavericks

+2200

Utah Jazz

+2500

Kyrie Irving is still AWOL

Speaking of Harden’s teammates, one fundamentally important one is Kyrie Irving. Irving is as enigmatic a figure in the NBA as there is, and lately disgruntled is an equally apt adjective for the former NBA champ.

Irving has chosen to sit out for the last week, and has shown no indication of when, or even if, he will return. Irving has burned a lot of bridges during his time in the league, but this may be the final one.

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