Mark Medina, USA TODAY
Published 1: 35 a.m. ET March 4, 2021 | Updated 1: 54 a.m. ET March 4, 2021
The fans serenaded him with both cheers and boos. Perhaps if the Houston Rockets may have fielded more than 4,500 fans, Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden would have had a better gauge on how Rockets fans at the 2d feel about him.
Blueprint they concentrate on Harden’s three NBA scoring titles, his regular-season MVP and two appearances in the Western Convention finals amid eight consecutive playoff berths? Or carry out they keep in mind Harden’s hasty departure to Brooklyn that included a trade demand, arriving to training camp late and violating the league’s health and safety protocols?
Returning to Houston for the primary time since the Rockets traded him to Brooklyn, Harden acquired a combined response earlier than, during and after the Nets’ 132-114 win Tuesday at Toyota Center.
“A lot of combined emotions with the fans,” Harden said. “I knew that was going to happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a existing.”
So, Harden did something that became familiar to Rockets fans when he shattered scoring records in a purple and white uniform. Harden finished with 29 points while shooting 10-of-15 from the field and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He added 14 assists and 10 rebounds, marking his eighth triple-double of the season.
In related information, the Nets (24-13) have gained nine of their past 10 games while the Rockets (11-23 and fielding finest eight healthy players) lost their 13th consecutive game.
“After I win on that court docket, it’s just trying to win. I’m no longer really shy about anything else,” Harden said. “That was kind of my feeling – win the game, carry out whatever it takes and carry out what you’ve been doing. I wasn’t trying to existing off. I wasn’t trying to carry out anything out of the ordinary.”
Yet, this 2d appeared far from ordinary.
After spending his first three seasons as a dependable reserve with the Oklahoma Metropolis Disclose (2009-2012), Harden went to Houston both for a bigger contract and a bigger position. Over eight-plus years, Harden became the Rockets’ all-time leader in points per game (29.6), 3-pointers made (2,029), free throws (5,554), assists (4,796) and triple-doubles (46).
Tranquil, Harden’s time in Houston also included blemishes.
Harden eventually had tensions with other co-stars in Dwight Howard (2013-16), Chris Paul (2017-19) and Russell Westbrook (2019-20). After the Rockets disregarded Harden’s trade question after failing to retain coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, Harden arrived to training camp late and out of shape. He also had broken the league’s health and safety protocols and Rockets teammates publicly questioned his professionalism.
However “There had been way more moral moments with James Harden for the Rockets than bad,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “He may tranquil be known for that.”
The Rockets appeared to feel that way, too.
Ahead of the game, longtime Rockets assistant coach John Lucas and Harden embraced and talked. Early in the primary quarter, the Rockets played a video tribute that Harden watched attentively. After the game, Harden hugged and talked at length with stale Rockets teammates and coaches. He then thanked Rockets proprietor Tilman Fertitta, who had told the Houston Yarn he plans to retire Harden’s No. 13 jersey.
“Hopefully I did something real. Obviously I came up fast with winning a championship, nonetheless the work I save in on and off the court docket the past eight years was elite,” Harden said. “The suitable thing I didn’t carry out or didn’t accomplish is a championship, which is challenging to obtain. However as far as bringing pleasure to this metropolis, taking care of the fans on and off the court docket is something I attempted to make a contribution. Hopefully that outweighs that.”
Harden has had a variety of questions to answer in Brooklyn. May perhaps he co-exist with two other stars in Durant and Kyrie Irving? May perhaps he tranquil dominate as a franchise cornerstone along with his superior scoring and passing? May perhaps he change his attitude that became toxic during his final days in Houston?
So far, the Nets have viewed Harden answer all of those questions. He has averaged 25.2 points while shooting 49% from the field and 41.9 % from 3-point range, along with posting career highs in assists (11.3) and rebounds (8.7). Harden has elevated his game amid overlapping absences to Durant (11 games) and Irving (5) and has deferred when one or two of them have played with him.
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“The playmaking is clear. He’s such a brilliant distributor, playmaker and makes the game easy for others and makes other better,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I knew that. That’s been no shock. I don’t want to say it’s a shock. However I didn’t know what his patterns of behavior had been. So his leadership and professionalism and being a moral teammate, all of those things he’s been outstanding.”
It may have been outstanding, nonetheless Harden insisted those qualities are no longer original.
“I just win credit now. Beforehand I wasn’t getting credit,” Harden said. “Same leadership. I’ve been the same particular person. I haven’t changed, no longer one bit.”
In some respects, the booing and cheering Rockets fans saw that from Harden. He scored with step-back 3-pointers and floaters as he had accomplished for eight-plus seasons in Houston.
In other respects, those same fans saw a diverse model of Harden. He had spent this season wanting to leave Houston, nonetheless for one night, Harden appeared happy he returned.