In an emotional night, Brooklyn star James Harden received a touching tribute video, cheers, and even some boos during his first return visit to Toyota Center since being traded from the Houston Rockets.
Naturally, of course, he also brought his new team a win. In Wednesday’s 132-114 victory (box score), the Nets (24-13) won for the 10th time in 11 games, while the Rockets (11-23) suffered a 13th straight loss.
The crew led by Harden (29 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (24 points) simply had too much for the Rockets, who were without star center Christian Wood and only had eight active players.
Nonetheless, the real drama was in the stands and on Toyota Center’s video monitors. A perennial All-Star and MVP finalist, the Harden-era Rockets never missed the playoffs a single time in his eight years. Yet, he left on a bitter note as he leveraged his way out of town. As a result, the reception from Houston’s fans was understandably mixed, especially with their own team mired in its longest losing streak in over 20 years.
Harden, however, was clearly choosing to look at the positive. Before the game, he spent time speaking with franchise mainstays, such as general manager Rafael Stone and assistant coach John Lucas. After the win, Harden spent several minutes on the Toyota Center court interacting with his former teammates and acknowledging fans that stayed.
In a nationally televised interview on ESPN, he also credited Houston owner Tilman Fertitta with the decision to eventually retire Harden’s jersey. “Credit the ownership of the Houston Rockets, the Fertitta family, for putting my jersey in the rafters,” Harden said. “Hopefully that shows on the court, off the court, the contributions I had to this city.”
See below for a compilation of what happened in the minutes following Wednesday’s game at Toyota Center in downtown Houston. Though there were certainly some tense moments in Harden’s final weeks with the franchise, it’s clear that he and the Rockets are on good terms.