Why the Celtics shouldn't be scared of James Harden, Nets


Anybody catch James Harden's Nets debut Saturday night?

Scary Celtics fans, right?

Fear not.

Sure, right now the Nets have to be put atop the Eastern Conference power rankings, with or without Kyrie Irving. Kevin Durant is that good, and so is Harden. Yes, Brooklyn is set up to roll through the East ... on paper.

Looking at how Harden's teams have fared against the Celtics throughout the past three seasons -- losing just once -- doesn't help ease the anxiety. (That win, by the way, allowed the 2017-18 C's to start their season at 29-10 while dropping Harden's Rockets to 25-8.)

But the shape of this Celtics team simply feels like it might be leading to something that has the stuff to take down a team like the Nets.

Some of the problems the Celtics have had when trying to get over the hump in recent years has been the square-pegs, round-holes dynamic Danny Ainge left the roster with. Judging by what we have seen so far, Ainge has managed to fit the puzzle pieces better than ever thanks to the likes of Tristan Thompson, Payton Pritchard, Jeff Teague and even Semi Ojeleye.

And what makes the scenario even more palatable is that trade exception, which will allow Ainge to pick and choose exactly what can help finish the equation. (In hindsight, that payoff from the Gordon Hayward dealings may have been a genius move thanks to the opportunity to let the season unfold instead of guessing what might be needed.)

Obviously, in the short-term Kemba Walker's health is the difference-maker here. The Celtics can go toe-to-toe with the Nets' offensive firepower if Walker is Walker. If not? It becomes a different story.

Now, if Harden passes the ball like he did Saturday night, leading to what could be the league's most fascinating duo in years, then it will be tough ... not only for the Celtics any team in the NBA. But the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to exactly what the Nets will get going forward.

Let's check back in three months.