The Nets sent shockwaves around the NBA with their January 14 trade for James Harden, a massive four-team deal that landed the former MVP in Brooklyn. It gave the Nets their Big Three as Harden joined forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Things didn’t end smoothly for Harden in Houston, though, and now the nine-time All-Star is bracing to face his former Rockets team for the first time since the trade. Houston hosts Brooklyn at the Toyota Center on Wednesday, Brooklyn’s last game before the All-Star break.
Steve Nash Chimes in on Harden’s Houston Return
Nets coach Steve Nash didn’t exactly go on and on about the significance of Wednesday’s game for Harden, but he didn’t overlook it, either.
“I think the Houston game means a lot for James,” Nash said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
Harden spent eight full seasons with the Rockets, a span during which he rose to superstardom and won the 2017-18 MVP. He averaged 29.4 points, 7.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds over that span.
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Harden’s Messy Breakup With Rockets
Harden, who had requested a trade in the offseason, was absent for the beginning of training camp with the Rockets while attending events in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Then, a couple of days before being dealt to the Nets, he had this to say after a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers:
“We’re not even close, honestly, to that team (the Lakers) — obviously the defending champions — and all the other elite teams out there. You can tell the difference in these last two games.
“We’re just not good enough. Obviously chemistry, talent-wise, just… everything. It was clear. They’re a veteran team, a championship team, one of the best teams that we have in this league.
“I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. This situation is crazy. It’s something that — I don’t think it can be fixed.”
James Harden: We're not even close, honestly, to that team, the obviously the defending champions, and to all the other elite teams out there. I mean, you can tell the difference these last two games." pic.twitter.com/l6WDfBrtNS
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) January 13, 2021
Harden later expressed regret over how the situation unfolded to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview in late February.
“The drama, the extra whatever you want to call it, the negativity, for me I don’t really like negative energy, it’s draining,” Harden said. “I don’t like how it necessarily happened, I feel like it could’ve happened a lot smoother, easier, but it is what it is.”
James Harden sits down & opens up about his new role in Brooklyn, what he didn't like about his departure from Houston, and the Nets' championship chances: "We're more than confident that it's going to be difficult for a team to beat us four times in a best-of-seven series." pic.twitter.com/rZKkwFs1jg
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 12, 2021
With his new team, Harden is averaging MVP-caliber numbers. On Monday he became the first player in 44 years to have 30-plus points, 15-plus assists, 10-plus rebounds and zero turnovers in a game as the Nets defeated the San Antonio Spurs in overtime.
James Harden is the first player to put up 30+ PTS, 10+ REB, 15+ AST with zero turnovers in a game since 1977-78. pic.twitter.com/kSrdtIP3af
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) March 2, 2021
It was Harden’s seventh triple-double in 22 games as a Net.