Nets' James Harden on Houston return: 'I just wanted to come out here and give them a show'

Alex Smith
·3 min read
James Harden in black warmup shirt
James Harden in black warmup shirt

James Harden did not disappoint in his first game back in Houston since January’s blockbuster deal.

For the eighth time in 23 games as a Net, Harden recorded a triple-double, going for 29 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds in Brooklyn’s convincing 132-114 win over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

Harden was greeted by mixed reactions from the limited crowd in Houston, but afterwards, he downplayed his own individual feelings about the game and focused first on the Nets winning their 10th game in their last 11 times out.

“I’m excited. I mean, we got a win,” Harden said. “We’ve been playing very, very good basketball, and to finish out strong like this going into the All-Star break means a lot to us. Hopefully, we can get guys healthy – [Kevin Durant], Jeff [Green], [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot]—and after the break, keep this train rolling.

“And as far as playing in Houston, a lot of mixed emotions with the fans, but I knew that was going to happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show. … For me, once I get on that court, it’s just ‘Try to win.’ I’m not really worried about anything else. So that was kind of my feeling: win the game and do whatever it takes and do what you’ve been doing. I wasn’t trying to show off, I wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary that I haven’t been doing.”

Even if Harden didn’t seem to want to put too much stock into his return to the Lonestar State, Nets head coach Steve Nash knew how much the game meant to Harden.

“You could tell it meant something to him. This place is special for James,” Nash said. “Houston means a lot to him, the city, the organization, what he accomplished here with these teams. I know it was a big game for him. I was proud of him for the way he handled it.”

An All-Star in all eight of his full seasons with the Rockets, Harden evolved into one of the game’s elite scorers in Houston, averaging 29.6 points over the course of his time with the team.

Harden ultimately came up short of winning a championship in Houston, but Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta recently told the Houston Chronicle that the team will one day retire his No. 13.

In response, Harden said that he hoped all of his hard work outshines the fact that he wasn’t able to reach his ultimate goal with the Rockets.

“My reaction was ‘Hopefully I did something right.’ Obviously I came up short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that I put in over those past eight years was elite,” Harden said. “I think that’s the only thing that I didn’t do, or didn’t accomplish, is the championship, which is difficult to obtain.

“As far as bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the court, it’s something that I try to contribute, so hopefully that outweighs (not winning a title).”