The Brooklyn Nets are still working through the process of bringing James Harden along, two weeks after the trade that brought the All-Star from Houston.
But that process has taken significant steps forward in recent days as the Nets enter Friday night's game at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"I think ‘encouraging' is the word," Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. "I don't want to force him. He knows what he's doing. He knows where his body's at and where this process of assimilating to a new group is. We want him to be aggressive."
Harden is coming off a 31-point, 15-assist, eight-rebound performance in Wednesday's overtime win at Atlanta.
With Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, there were questions about how the trio of stars would be able to share the ball.
So far, the results have been positive, with the Nets going 5-2 since Harden came aboard.
Brooklyn carries a three-game winning streak into Friday's game.
"We just want him to come into this group and not so much think about fitting in, but just be who he is," Irving said of Harden. "We want him to continue to progress and grow. All of us realize that we still have a level to get to individually and then collectively as a group."
It hasn't necessarily been natural, Irving said, but being a part of that group has made it worth it.
"We have to do it with sacrifice and a compromise as well," Irving said. "I'm not compromising anything with allowing James to be James. Envy and jealousy -- as young men, definitely emotions are things that you could get caught up in; we don't want to take this for granted. Very grateful to be playing with guys that have this much experience and are all-world players and I could get blue in the face saying that."
The Thunder finished their five-game road trip with consecutive wins after dropping the first three games of the trip.
"We learned some lessons and I think we improved through the games," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "That's ultimately what we're trying to do is just continue to make progress and put our best foot forward and then evaluate and prepare and do it all over again.
"I thought on this trip we kind of walked that walk."
One of the biggest reasons the Thunder have been able to stay close to .500, despite a near complete roster overhaul in the offseason, has been the improvement of point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Over the last six games, Gilgeous-Alexander is shooting better than 53 percent from the field, nearly 43 percent from behind the 3-point line and averaging 24.2 points and 7.7 assists.
"He continues to figure it out, to get better, to understand when to be aggressive and go score, when to pass the ball," Al Horford said. "As the season has gone on so far, Shai continues to make the right plays."
While Oklahoma City is 7-4 on the road, the Thunder are just 1-5 at home this season.
The Thunder has been without veteran guard George Hill for the last two games with a right thumb sprain. Hill's status for Friday's game is unclear. Rookie Theo Maledon has started the last two games in Hill's absence.
(Field Level Media)