Rockets Fans React to James Harden’s Return to Houston [WATCH]

James Harden

Getty James Harden greets Rockets fans on the way to the locker room after a playoff game between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas.

Forty-eight days later, James Harden returned to Houston as his new team, the Brooklyn Nets, faced his old one, the Rockets. The teams are headed in opposite directions at the moment, with the Nets winners of nine of their last 10 games, and the Rockets in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.

No matter. Wednesday’s game at Toyota Center was still brimming with intrigue thanks to Harden’s return to the city where he spent eight-plus seasons as the Rockets’ catalyst before he was traded to the Nets on January 14. And with the messy way things ended between Harden and the Rockets, there was a mixed reaction to The Beard’s return.

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Rockets Fans React to Harden’s Return

There were just under 4,000 fans at Toyota Center for Wednesday’s game.

When Harden was introduced ahead of the game — he was the last Nets player to have his name called — the reaction was a mixed bag.

Adam Spolane, who covers the Rockets for SportsRadio 610 in Houston, described the reaction as “mostly cheers with some scattered boos.”

But that was only the beginning.

Fans continued to react to Harden being back on the Toyota Center hardwood as the game got underway.

All the while, the theme was consistent: Mixed reactions.

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Harden Hoped to Be Received Warmly

Harden spent a full eight seasons with Rockets, in addition to the first few games of this season. His impact was monumental: He helped lead Houston to the postseason in all eight of those seasons, he was the 2017-18 MVP, and he averaged 29.4 points, 7.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds in 621 games.

But things didn’t end well. Harden requested a trade while still with the Rockets this past offseason, and was absent for the beginning of training camp while attending events in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Then, a couple of days before being dealt to the Nets, he said “we’re just not good enough” after a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden expressed regret over how the situation unfolded to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview in late February.

In an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews that aired Wednesday ahead of the Nets-Rockets game, Harden said: “I thought I would never leave that franchise. I thought I was going to be in Houston for the rest of my career. Things happen. I had different goals and I seen a different vision for myself and my career and my family. That doesn’t change how I feel about that city. I will always do whatever it takes to help if I can.”

With that sentiment in mind, Harden had an idea of how he’d be received at Toyota Center upon his return.

“I hope I’m received with love,” he said. “The love and the appreciation I’ve given to that city and I still give to that city, I’m hoping the favor can be returned.”

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