The Rockets will play the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, which will mark the first time that James Harden will lace ’em up against the team he couldn’t come to terms with on a contract extension shortly before the start of the season.
As a result, OKC traded Harden to Houston, where he’s been mostly spectacular as the team’s number one offensive option, averaging just over 25 points per game on the season.
The Thunder had something special going with the young core of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook making their first trip to the Finals last season, but the organization decided to change that in favor of future financial flexibility.
There apparently are no hard feelings on Harden’s part, however, who says he’ll approach this game just like any other.
“I’m on the road trying to get a win,” Harden said Tuesday. “That’s no different than when we played at Memphis or Atlanta or whatever the case may be.”
He said he never expected to leave Oklahoma City …, but he refuses to consider the game special.
“To be honest, I don’t even know,” he said. “It will be good to see some faces, some old teammates and coaches. They’re all my family. I look forward to every single game I play. It’s just another game.”
Before we’re too quick to dismiss Harden’s comments as disingenuous athlete-speak, it’s worth noting the team has more important things on its mind.
The Rockets will be in Minnesota earlier in the day to support head coach Kevin McHale, whose 23-year-old daughter Sasha passed away over the weekend. They’ll attend the funeral, before heading into Oklahoma City later this afternoon.
The gravity of handling that situation, especially on a game day, will likely outweigh any lingering grudges in Harden’s mind.
Getting back to basketball, Harden honestly doesn’t have anything to be upset about. He received the max contract he believed he deserved in Houston, and is proving his worth as a starter, which is something he never would have gotten the opportunity to do in Oklahoma City.
Still, with all of that being said, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harden bring a little extra something to the contest once he does step on the court to face his former team.