James Harden will return to Houston on Wednesday for the first time since he forced his way out of the city in a trade.
And while the Brooklyn Nets star guard could hear the boos from the 4,500 or so fans in the Toyota Center, he’s clearly won over his new team.
“He literally can do almost everything there is to do out there, and he’s been a great leader for us,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “He can control the game. He is a very smart defender. I think he’s been outstanding as far as keeping his team on track — leading, talking things out, communicating. His passion for the game and willingness and want to win have been fantastic.”
The Rockets sent Harden to the Nets on Jan. 13 as part of a four-team deal that included the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers. After eight seasons in Houston that included a league Most Valuable Player award and three scoring titles, Harden wanted out of a franchise that he didn’t see making a run for the NBA title.
With Harden, the Nets have catapulted from a 7-6 team to a 23-13 squad that is in second place in the Eastern Conference.
In 22 games with Brooklyn since the trade, Harden has averaged 25.3 points on 49.0 percent shooting from the field, 41.9 percent shooting from 3-point range and 85.6 percent success from the free-throw line to go with 8.7 rebounds, 11.3 assists and 1.2 steals in 38.3 minutes per game. He has 19 double-doubles and seven triple-doubles — the latter the second-most by a player in Nets history.
Even though the Rockets have fallen to 11-22 and second-to-last place in the Western Conference without him, he said he is hopeful “those fans appreciated everything that I’ve done on the court and off the court.”
He said he is ready for his return to Texas.
“I’m excited to go back to Houston where I basically had an unbelievable career there,” Harden said. “To get that love and respect, I’m excited to be playing in front of those fans.”
–Field Level Media