James Harden reacts to first game back in Houston as a member of Nets
James Harden made his highly anticipated first trip back to Houston to face the Rockets on Thursday night as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, and the superstar felt pretty good about how things went on multiple fronts.
First, Harden led the red-hot Nets to a 132-114 victory by posting yet another triple-double — a frequently recurring outcome this season for the former MVP — with 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
All smiles for @JHarden13 in his return to Houston:— ESPN (@espn) March 4, 2021
Nets W pic.twitter.com/7GrbofgW1r
After the game, Harden reflected on his evening at Toyota Center, which included no shortage of tension given how he burned every bridge on his way out of Houston following his trade demand before the 2020-21 NBA season even tipped off.
James Harden reflects on tonight’s return to Houston:— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 4, 2021
“A lot of mixed emotions from the fans, but I knew that was gonna happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show” pic.twitter.com/CaFat2xnvj
“I’m excited. I mean, we got a win,” Harden said, via SNY. “We’ve been playing very, very good basketball, and to finish out strong like this going into the All-Star break means a lot to us. Hopefully, we can get guys healthy – [Kevin Durant], Jeff [Green], [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot]—and after the break, keep this train rolling.
“And as far as playing in Houston, a lot of mixed emotions with the fans, but I knew that was going to happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show. … For me, once I get on that court, it’s just ‘Try to win.’ I’m not really worried about anything else. So that was kind of my feeling: win the game and do whatever it takes and do what you’ve been doing. I wasn’t trying to show off, I wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary that I haven’t been doing.”
To say Harden received a mixed reaction from the limited number of fans inside Toyota Center — as he acknowledged — would be an understatement.
Mixed welcome for James Harden pic.twitter.com/3zeouPBmHW— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 4, 2021
Harden also weighed in how Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta stated this week that the team intends to one day retire the former star’s No. 13 jersey.
“My reaction was ‘hopefully I did something right'”— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 4, 2021
James Harden gives his thoughts on the Rockets planning to retire his #13 pic.twitter.com/0KonshAqvm
“My reaction was ‘Hopefully I did something right.’ Obviously I came up short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that I put in over those past eight years was elite,” Harden said. “I think that’s the only thing that I didn’t do, or didn’t accomplish, is the championship, which is difficult to obtain.
“As far as bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the court, it’s something that I try to contribute, so hopefully that outweighs (not winning a title).”
Harden acknowledged this week ahead of Wednesday’s game that he bears a sizable share of responsibility for how things went sideways with the Rockets following his trade demand. The admission followed his apology last month concerning the drama stirred up ahead of his ultimate exit out of Houston.
With the dreaded first game back in Houston out of the way, Harden presumably can leave all the drama in the past and focus further on finding his niche with the surging Nets.
While there have been some bumps in the road — especially on the defensive side of things for the Nets — Harden is averaging 25.5 points, 11.4 assists and 8.7 rebounds in 23 games with Brooklyn as he continues to build chemistry with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Suffice to say, the Nets are on an absolute tear right now, running roughshod over the competition while winning nine of 10 games and leaves the team in the No. 2 slot in the Eastern Conference with a 24-13 record.