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With James Harden out for injury rehab, Nets' struggles suggest he's the key member of the "big three" stars

Even before the Brooklyn Nets' narrow loss--their fourth straight--Thursday night to the Dallas Mavericks, even while Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were on the court, Sports Illustrated Robin Lunberg wrote 5/5/21 James Harden Is Most Necessary Net: Unchecked.

His point: only if the injured Harden comes back for the playoffs (and he expects to be back) can the Nets win a title. In other words, this third star, who engineered a trade to the Nets mid-season, is crucial:
When the trade for Harden went down, it felt like it may have been a luxury, but it turns out acquiring him was a necessity. Brooklyn is 27-7 with Harden in the lineup, which includes many games without KD and several without Kyrie. Meanwhile, they are under .500 in contests where the original Brooklyn duo shares the floor sans The Beard.
Lunberg argues that Harden is a more complete player, given his role as a facilitator and even on defense, than the spectacular scorers in Durant and Irving.

Meanwhile, the Nets made the New Yorker cover, with the Knicks in the background, but...

And check out this quote from NBA legend Oscar Robinson about the way the league (and sports) have changed:

Look at Brooklyn: Who could have done this years ago? How things have changed. It seems now that what’s happening in basketball, and I haven’t seen it happen in football yet, is players will get together and say, “Let’s go and play for this team so we can win.” Years ago, you wouldn’t have thought of doing that.