Star guard James Harden got his wish when he was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets this week.
Now he’s hoping to fulfill Brooklyn’s wish of bringing a championship to New York, which he failed to accomplish with the Rockets.
“It means a lot. Just coming from eight years in Houston, having a fresh start with some unbelievable talent, the coaching staff,” Harden said on Friday during his first comments since the trade. “Ultimately, it’s a chance for me to compete for a title.”
Harden, 31, was acquired as part of a four-team trade involving Houston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Cleveland.
The three-time NBA scoring champ and 2017-18 NBA MVP never publicly asked for a trade, but there were several reports about his request, and Wednesday after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers he talked about how he thought the Rockets were “just not good enough” to compete for a championship.
That comment might have increased the Rockets’ urgency to move Harden, but he didn’t think it was out of line.
“I felt like we didn’t have a chance,” Harden said. “The ultimate goal was to get somewhere where I can compete. It’s not a guarantee (in Brooklyn). But I think giving myself a chance is very important.
“I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone … I’ve been through all the ups and downs in that organisation. I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone.
“I just made a comment that the team, as a whole, wasn’t good enough to compete for a title. I have nothing but love and respect for that organisation, for that city, everything that they’ve done for me and my family.”
Harden, a career 25.2-point-per-game scorer, averaged 24.8 points in eight games for the Rockets this season.
In Brooklyn, he’ll be reunited with his former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant and probably paired in the same backcourt with point guard Kyrie Irving, who’s currently away from the team for personal reasons.
Durant, the NBA MVP in 2013-14, has averaged 27.0 points per game in his career. Irving is a two-time All-NBA selection and has averaged 22.5 points per game over his career.
The Nets are going to have to forge chemistry between the three stars while satisfying their desire to score.
“It might take a little time, it might not,” Harden said. “I think all of us are very, very smart, like I said, are very unselfish and we know what’s at stake.
“It’s a matter of coaches putting us in position and us communicating, putting ourselves in positions and spots on the floor where we can be effective and help each other out.”
Nets coach Steve Nash said Harden would be in the starting lineup as soon as the player passes his physical. That could be as soon as Saturday at home against the Orlando Magic.