NBA

Nets supporting Harden in MVP bid, says Irving

By Sports Desk March 29, 2021

Kyrie Irving said the Brooklyn Nets are supporting superstar James Harden in his bid to win a second NBA MVP award.

Harden was crowned the league's Most Valuable Player in 2018 and he has thrust himself into this season's mix following his exploits for the Nets.

The nine-time All-Star has been a dominant force since joining the Nets in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets in January, Harden continuing his red-hot run with a triple-double in Monday's 112-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Harden posted 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds for a franchise record-tying 12th triple-double of the season.

Asked about Harden's MVP case, fellow star Irving – who returned from a three-game absence to score 27 points – said: "He's self-motivated which makes him great. You've got to have some type of self-motivation to get yourself up for these games and consistently show up.

"He's done a great job all season for us [of] being consistent and just kind of leading our team, whether I am out of the line-up or [Kevin Durant] is out of the line-up, you know different guys are playing with him and he's been able to adjust and adapt quickly. And when you throw some great pieces around a great player that is able to play point guard out there and just kind of be who he is – it is our job out there to be responsible for our roles, play at a high level and complement him and visa versa.

"We support him and it's a team effort. It's team basketball out there. You know, our record is a reflection of how great we are as a team, but in this league individuals are very special and you have got to give credit when credit is due. And so, us as a team, we just want to continue to support him."

Harden has been averaging 26.1 points, a league-best 11.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Nets, who are second and only a half-game adrift of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn's Harden – who is averaging the most minutes per game (38.1) in the NBA this season – has led the way for the Nets, with Kevin Durant (hamstring) sidelined since February and Irving missing time throughout 2020-21.

"I think we have a target on our back, teams are coming in and playing well and I think that's pretty much it," said Harden, whose Nets have acquired former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

"Every team goes through ups and down throughout the course of a year. I'm just happy that it's not even a tough time for us because we've been having to deal with injuries and things like that throughout the course of the season.

"I think we're in a fog right now because we have to find some energy. And I know once KD and LaMarcus and Landry get back, they're going to bring that, so we just gotta continue to find ways to win however they come which we've seen these last few games and keep pushing. That's the NBA season for you."

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    Lorenzo Insigne says his move to Major League Soccer side Toronto FC came about due to his need for a new challenge after spending his entire career with Napoli.

    The Italy international agreed to join Toronto in January, going on to finish the 2021-22 Serie A season with 11 goals in 32 appearances for Luciano Spalletti's Napoli before heading to Canada.

    Insigne scored 122 goals in 434 appearances for his hometown club, a tally which is only bettered by Dries Mertens (148) and represents seven goals more than the late, great Diego Maradona netted for the Partenopei (115).

    Speaking at his first news conference in Toronto, Insigne refuted the suggestion that MLS represented a step down for a player of his quality.

    Asked whether he had been presented with other options, Insigne said: "I didn't receive any [other] offers at that time. It was very early when I first met the president, and I still had my contract with Napoli. I could have stayed in Europe. 

    "I'm 31, so I still have many years in front of me, but I wanted to choose happiness and the wellbeing of my family. 

    "As I mentioned before, I won a lot with Napoli, and I lost as well. But I wanted a change and more importantly, a challenge, either in another European club or here in North America. 

    "I've heard people saying that soccer in North America is not real soccer, but I've seen it and it's not true. 

    "It is a challenge because of the move, but I'm really grateful to the opportunity the president gave me and the whole organisation has given me, and the love and the effort that everybody is putting into this. I'm very thankful, and I want to repay the love with my performances during the season."

    Insigne joins a team that sits 11th in the Eastern Conference, but he is already targeting silverware.

    "I am very happy to be here. This is a big and new adventure for me and my family, this is the first time we have been away from Napoli," he said.

    "But it was a great choice, because when I first met the president, he talked to me about Toronto as a city and especially about the team. 

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    "I made the decision, not for the money, but for a new life for my family and my kids, and for their wellbeing. The project is certainly a challenge, and I would like to be part of winning the championship.

    "I played for Napoli for 10 years and for the Italian national team, winning the Euros. So, I don't have any problem with being under pressure, and I'd rather have my actions speak for me on the pitch."

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    Morgan has become one of England's greatest leaders after being appointed in 2014, leading the side to a first World Cup triumph in the 50-over format with a dramatic victory over New Zealand in the 2019 final at Lord's.

    The 35-year-old also took England to the T20 World Cup final in 2016 and the semi-finals five years later.

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    The left-handed batter has passed 50 just once in his past eight ODIs since scoring 106 against his country of birth Ireland in February 2020.

    Morgan repeatedly suggested he would step down from his role if he felt he was not contributing with the bat and he confirmed on Tuesday that his international career is over.

    "After careful deliberation and consideration, I am here to announce my retirement from international cricket with immediate effect," Morgan said in a statement issued on the England and Wales Cricket Board's website.

    "To call time on what has been without doubt the most enjoyable and rewarding chapter of my career hasn't been an easy decision, but I believe now is the right time to do so, both for me, personally, and for both England white-ball sides I have led to this point.

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    "I have been lucky enough to play in two World Cup winning teams, but I believe the future for England's white-ball teams is brighter than ever. We have more experience, more strength and more depth than ever before. I look forward to watching on with a huge level of excitement."

    Rob Key, managing director of England men's cricket, added: "On behalf of the ECB and everyone involved in cricket, I'd like to thank Eoin Morgan for his outstanding contribution to the game.

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    "As with all great players and leaders, he has changed the way the game has been played, and he has changed the way an entire generation and generations to come will play this form of the game. His legacy within the game will be felt for many years to come.

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    Buttler stepped up in the absence of Morgan for the final ODI against Netherlands and is now expected to take the job on a permanent basis.

    Wicketkeeper-batter faces a busy start to his reign, with Matthew Mott's side facing South Africa and India three-match T20I and ODI series during the next month.

    England head to Australia for three T20Is in October before the T20 World Cup starts later in the month Down Under.

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