Rockets’ James Harden expects to sign extension before deadline
By Ben Golliver
The newest member of the Houston Rockets expects to stick around for awhile.
James Harden, acquired in a late-night Saturday trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, told Houston reporters on Sunday that he expects to sign an extension with his new team in advance of Wednesday’s deadline.
“Yes, yes I do,” Harden said, in a video interview posted on NBA.com. “I’ll let them figure that out with my agent. My focus right now is Houston and how I can make them better. … I feel like I can help build it and bring my talents over here.”
He said that he had already decided that the Rockets will be his long-term home.
“Just to be secure, I feel like I’m in a great position with a great team and great young guys who are willing to work hard,” Harden said.
Contract talks between Oklahoma City and Harden were reportedly still taking place just hours before Thunder GM Sam Presti pulled the trigger on a trade that landed Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three picks in returns. The Thunder reportedly offered Harden a four-year deal worth $54 million.
The Rockets can offer Harden, who is entering the last season of his rookie deal, a five-year extension in the neighborhood of $80 million, according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.
Harden, 23, averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.4 minutes off of the Thunder’s bench last season. He was named the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year on a Thunder team that went to the 2012 NBA Finals.
In Houston, he moves into the alpha dog role as the team’s new franchise player, a transition he says he is ready to embrace.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “Not starting, not having attention on me, but I think I’m ready.”
Harden acknowledged there would be another adjustment: going from a championship contender in the Thunder to a likely lottery team in the Rockets.
“It’s definitely different, but it’s something that we have to learn to deal with,” he said. “This is a business and everything happens for a reason. I’m just going to try to play hard and win games.”