Opinion: James Harden ‘very unselfish’ in Nets’ debut, but time will tell if that becomes norm

This time, James Harden did not pout. He smiled. He did not immediately hoist 3-point shots in isolation. He set up his teammates first.

Less than a week ago, Harden put further pressure on the Houston Rockets to trade him by questioning the team’s talent level and considering its issues as unfixable. On Saturday, Harden received what he wanted. In his first game with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden helped the Nets to a 122-15 win over the Orlando Magic by becoming the seventh player in NBA history to post a triple double in his debut with a team: 32 points on 8-of-18 shooting, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes.

"I’m a hooper. I’m very unselfish," Harden said. "I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win."

Those in NBA circles would not describe Harden that way. As he led the Rockets to seven playoff appearances and three Western Conference finals, Harden won three scoring titles through a unique style. He dominated in isolation. He hunted for fouls when he drove to the basket. And he nailed step-back 3-pointers.

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So as Harden fueled the Nets’ pass-heavy offense on Saturday, Nash stayed mindful that a new integration process will take place. Brooklyn saw first-hand how Harden can fare in a Nets uniform with balanced passing and scoring. The Nets have yet to see how Harden will do that with Irving on the floor as well.

"We’re going to have to continually find how it all works at the best level with the most effective and efficient standard. But throwing Kyrie in the mix makes us better," Nash said. "It’s a good problem to have to figure out where they can coexist to their highest level and standard. I think it takes time. It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone. But it’s an incredible problem to have and something we’ll relish trying to decipher."

The Nets may start figuring out that puzzle as soon as Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks. For now, Harden offered a promising first impression and made the first step toward punctuating the week that also featured an ugly departure from the Rockets.

"It felt unbelievable. I hope you can tell by my smile and my play," Harden said. "I’m just excited for the opportunity. This is an unbelievable organization from top to bottom. For me, I have to go out there and be the best James Harden I have to be. Then, good things will happen."

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