Sure, many initially viewed the Brooklyn Nets’ acquisition of James Harden from the Houston Rockets as an excessive one — adding to the team’s embarrassment of riches that already had them in the NBA Finals conversation behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
But over the last seven weeks, it might have been out of necessity as he’s helped the Nets climb up the standings of the Eastern Conference and flirt with the No. 1 seed as they nip at the heels of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Nets have won nine of their last 10 games with Harden starring as the indispensable motor of it all. During the 10-game stretch, he is nearly averaging a triple-double with 27.3 points, 10.6 assists, and 9.6 rebounds per game.
That included a monster 30-point, 15-assist, and 14-rebound triple-double on Monday night in an overtime win against the San Antonio Spurs down in Texas.
Up next provides a return to the 31-year-old’s old stomping grounds in Houston as the Nets visit the Rockets on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET).
“Yeah, I’m excited just to go back to Houston where I basically had an unbelievable career there,” Harden said. “They showed me mad love and respect and I am just excited to be playing in front of those fans. Yeah, I’m pretty excited.”
Harden spent eight-plus seasons with the Rockets, developing from super-sub with the Oklahoma City Thunder to superstar in Houston.
He averaged 29.6 points and 7.7 assists per game during his time with the Rockets, earning eight All-Star Game nods, the 2018 NBA MVP Award, and each of the last three scoring titles.
As the centerpiece, Harden and the Rockets made the playoffs in each of his eight full seasons with the team, but could never get to the NBA Finals.
“Time there was great,” he said. “Obviously, we came up short to win a championship or even a Finals, but just the work that I put in, hopefully, those fans appreciated everything that I’ve done on the court and off the court and I’m still continuing to do off the court because that’s a place that I call home.”
In late-February — more than a month after his move away from the city — Harden still donated 3,000 meals to the people of Houston who were affected by severe winter weather-related power-outages and food shortages.
“It’s always home and I feel like I’m still a part of everything and the struggles and everything they go through,” Harden said. “I’m excited to go back there and see the familiar faces, see my family, and play a game and the last game before the break.”