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Before serving as a captain in the NBA’s All-Star Game draft Thursday night, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant said he was “happy we got guys who want to be part of this” in the blockbuster trade that saw James Harden go to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Ben Simmons.
Durant then made it pretty clear that he didn’t want Harden on his All-Star team, either, passing on taking him with each of his seven reserve round selections of the draft — much to the amusement of the other captain, LeBron James, as well as the TNT panel refereeing the affair.
With each of those seven reserve round selections, Durant — who won’t be able to play in the game and declined to give a timetable for when he might return to the court on two different occasions when asked about it — took, in order: Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, Dejounte Murray, Khris Middleton, LaMelo Ball and Rudy Gobert.
Since James had the second pick of the reserve round, that meant he would be left with the final player on the board. So, with his second-to-last selection, James — with the urging of Charles Barkley — took Fred VanVleet, leaving Durant with the choice of either Gobert or Harden for his final choice.
And, with the entire panel laughing besides him, Durant said he was going to value size and defense — two things not exactly en vogue in the All-Star Game — to take Gobert, meaning James wound up with Harden by default with his final pick.
All of this was playing out just hours after the Nets had completed an enormous deal that saw Harden and forward Paul Millsap go to Philadelphia in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“I’m excited for our team,” Durant said when asked about the trade, in his first public comments about the deal. “Looking forward to finishing the season out with this new group and these new players. Playoffs are right around the corner so we got to fast-track it to get used to each other, but I’m excited.”
When asked about how the Nets will have to adjust in the wake of losing Harden and adding Simmons, Durant praised the versatility Brooklyn added to the deal.
“That’s a good question,” Durant said. “I feel like we got versatile players so we have to figure it out and figure out what works for us, but I’m just happy that we got guys who want to be part of this.”
“I’m excited about my team,” Durant said of his final All-Star roster, adding that he’d like to give James his first loss as a captain in his unofficial hometown of Cleveland. “I think we’ve got a versatile group that can pretty much do everything, so I’m looking forward to it.”
He then made sure he got another dig in at Harden, too.
“That size is really going to help me when you’ve got LeBron and Giannis out there, so great picks toward the end of the draft.”
James, meanwhile, wound up with a final roster of starters Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Jokic, in addition to himself; and reserves Luka Doncic, Darius Garland, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, VanVleet and Harden.
“I like our team,” James said of his team. “We’ve got size, we’ve got quickness, we’ve got shooting, we’ve got guys who play hard.”
After they were done, when asked by host Ernie Johnson if there was any interest in a trade, Durant said he’d like to get Garland, James responded, “You’re not done trading?”
Then, after some more laughter, James added with a smile that Garland was off-limits.
“I’ve left Cleveland twice,” James said. “I’ve got to have some muscle to go back there with me.”