Posted October 29, 2012

Trade to Rockets left James Harden ‘stunned’ and ‘at a loss for words’

Ben Golliver, Houston Rockets, James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden

James Harden was dealt from the Thunder to the Rockets on Saturday night. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

James Harden’s “Welcome to Houston” media tour continued throughout Sunday, and after getting out in front of the biggest question — whether he will sign with the Rockets long term — he did double back to admit that he was caught by surprise when the Oklahoma City Thunder abruptly traded him late Saturday night.

“I was actually at dinner with my family,” Harden told CSNHouston’s Kelli Johnson. “Enjoying dinner, nice and quiet. I got a text from my general manager, Sam Presti. I called him. He told me that he loved me and that things didn’t work out and that I was going to be coming to Houston. I was kind of stunned, but as I thought about it, it could be a good thing for me.”

The next morning, Harden was on his way to Houston, jumping through the necessary hoops that go with being moved.

“A whirlwind,” he said. “Having to pack my things, get as much as possible, having physicals, getting to meet the team and the front office here, it’s been great. It’s kind of a loss for words.”

The talks regarding his contract didn’t move meaningfully over the course of the day. Sunday morning, Harden said his agent and the Rockets would get to work on an extension, and he expected to sign the deal before Wednesday’s deadline. He repeated that message Sunday night.

“We all built great relationships with the Thunder — the front office and the players. We had something special,” Harden told CSNHouston. “At the end of the day, it’s a business. I’m looking forward to being in Houston with my new team and front office. … The numbers issue, I’ll let my agent and the front office work that out. My job is to play basketball and I’m going to just try as hard as possible to bring wins to this city.”

The 2012 Sixth Man of the Year praised his new backcourt partner, Jeremy Lin, for his ability to both score and distribute, saying that the pair will combine to “make the game a lot easier” for their teammates.

Harden, 23, said he realizes he will take on added leadership responsibilities as the Rockets’ No. 1 scoring option, despite his youth.

“It’s strange, but it’s reality,” he said of being labeled the “veteran” on his new team. “I’ve had a lot of experience, being around that organization [the Thunder]. Kevin [Durant] and Russell [Westbrook], they put the hard work in. I have to bring my leadership on and off the court to Houston.”

His biggest concern? Meshing with an entirely new team with less than 72 hours before Houston takes the court for its regular-season opener against the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night.

“It’s going to be tough,” Harden admitted. “Not only myself, [but also fellow new Rockets players] Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward and Cole Aldrich. We’re all very fast learners. We’re going to learn the players very quick. [But] it’s just our chemistry. Our team has to build chemistry. It would have been nice to have a training camp and play a couple of games together, but we’re going to have to pick it up as games and practices go on.”

11 comments
M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

Seriously surprised?

1) Disappeared in finals vs Miami, especially crunch time when Durant and Westbrook were locked up

2) Really not that impressive in the Olympics when playing amongst other high level talent

3) Refused his 52M dollar deal that they had been working on for weeks

4) Get real, a bench player is not going to get a max contract if the All-NBA starters don't.

5) NBA execs typically don't let a good player get to free agency and leave with nothing in return

aknow11
aknow11

"It's business"  Awful business.  Say goodbye to your career.

MichaelS
MichaelS

Horrible move.  He's 23.  His agent should have stepped up with some wisdom and told him to take the deal.  He'd have had a better career with the cast of the Thunder than he will in Houston.  That's not business, that's greed and stupidity.  UNLESS they really believe he can carry the show - but he showed none of that in last years' playoffs.  My guess is he disappears in the sunset.

radbradg2
radbradg2

Harden messed up.   The only person he has to blame is himself.  4 years for 52 million and he didn't take it..  What a dork.

AlanDryburgh
AlanDryburgh

If these teams want to keep a core together (i.e. Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden ....) then they have ALL  be less selfish at contract time.  The other 3 mentioned are as much to blame for the Thunder not being able to sign Harden to an extension as anyone.  If they had been prepared to take  just a little less each then Harden could have been retained.  Remember that's what Magic did with the Lakers way back  - took a cut to enable the Lakers to offer someone else (I forget who in particular) a bit more and thus keep that other key player in Tinseltown.

WilyCoyoteSuperGenius
WilyCoyoteSuperGenius

A sixth man - a bench player who wanted to be paid like a superstar. Enjoy mediocrity in Houston fool. And shave that stupid beard.

Brad8
Brad8

 @AlanDryburgh You are so right, but the only one out of everybody who took a little bit less was Westbrook, because of the new Derrick Rose rules "look them up"  he could have signed his contract for up to 30% of the salary cap, but instead he went with the "standard max contract" and signed for 25% of the cap, other then that Durant took Max and Ibaka got what he deserved.

TonyMahon
TonyMahon

 @Brad8  @AlanDryburgh

 I read in several articles that Durrant, Westbrook, and Ibaka all took less than max deals to stay.  It was about 2 to 2.5 mill less a year than a max deal they all would have been entitled to.  I believe they made Harden the same basic deal and he turned it down. 8-10 mill over 4 years is alot of money but Houston is not a good team and they are not getting free agents there either.   That's alot of beard grooming products