Posted November 28, 2012 on
AP on Fox
James Harden's return to Oklahoma City has taken an emotional and tragic detour for the Houston Rockets.
The spotlight will eventually turn to the star guard.
Only hours after attending the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter on Wednesday, Harden will have to deal with a different set of emotions when he faces the Thunder for the first time since being traded away last month.
Harden spent his first three seasons with Oklahoma City (11-4), winning the league's Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011-12 and helping the team to the NBA finals.
But after he and the Thunder were unable to agree on a long-term extension, Harden was dealt to Houston (7-7) on Oct. 27 in exchange for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder.
Before the meeting with his former team, however, Harden and the Rockets will be in Minneapolis for the funeral of Sasha McHale - the 23-year-old daughter of head coach Kevin McHale.
Sasha McHale died on Saturday from complications of lupus.
"I think we're strong enough to get through it," Harden said. "We've got to be there for coach. He's going through a lot right now. Our biggest thing is just supporting him, and making sure we comfort him."
Houston will head to Oklahoma City following the services.
"It'll be good to see some faces, some old teammates and coaches," said Harden, who is among the league leaders with 25.1 points per game. "I look forward to every game I play. It's another game."
Harden has averaged 28.3 points during the Rockets' season-high three-game winning streak, pouring in 24 with a career high-tying 12 assists in Tuesday's 117-101 home win over Toronto.
Despite the recent surge, Houston is still concerned about its coach, who has been away from the team since Nov. 10.
"Right now, it's an emotional time for the whole team," guard Jeremy Lin said. "We're missing our leader. Right now, we're just focused on coming out and playing the way we're supposed to play. Hopefully, when he is watching, he can be proud of us."
Lin has totaled 29 points while making 13 of 21 field goals in his past two games after averaging 7.6 over the previous seven.
The Rockets will likely need another strong performance from him if they're going to beat the Thunder for a third straight meeting.
Oklahoma City is averaging 112.7 points on 48.6 percent shooting while winning five of its last six games, and its latest performance may have been its best of the season.
The Thunder built a staggering 54-point third-quarter lead on their way to a 114-69 romp over Charlotte on Monday. They hit 51.3 percent from the floor - 13 of 27 from beyond the arc - while accumulating 31 assists for the third time in six games.
"We know we're a special team when we're sharing the ball, and that's one thing coach (Scott Brooks) has been talking about the last couple weeks," Martin told the team's official website. "Just keep on sharing the ball and trusting each other, and that's what we've been doing lately."
Kevin Durant is just above Harden among the NBA's top scorers, averaging 25.9 points. He had 18 in a season-low 26 minutes Monday.
The three-time scoring champ likely won't mind a visit from the Rockets since he's averaged 29.3 points over the past six meetings on 51.7 percent shooting - hitting 14 of 30 from long range.
Russell Westbrook has been limited to averages of 17.0 points and 4.7 assists over his past three home games with Houston.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Tweet James Harden made his much anticipated return to his old stomping grounds tonight as a member of the Houston Rockets and brought with him a 25.1 ppg average, good for fifth in the NBA. When asked about his return Harden said it would be “just another game” and he may very well believe [...]
Following their 117-101 win over the Raptors, the Rockets hopped on a plane for Minneapolis where they will attend Sasha McHale’s funeral today in support of their head coach, Kevin McHale. But that’s not the only reason it will be a long, emotional day. The team will fly to Oklahoma City immediately following the funeral to take on the Thunder tonight in James Harden’s first...
HELLO, OLD FRIEND
James Harden had a rough game against his old team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shot poorly, and the Thunder showed that they’re still the dominant team, even without their former sixth-man. Russell Westbrook didn’t make Harden’s night any better with this awesome block from behind on one of Harden’s jumpers: I’m sure James Harden didn’t even know Russell Westbrook...
James Harden- Houston Rockets
- Well the Harden trade for Houston could not have gone better, as he is fifth in the league in scoring and he is now the star they have wanted since Yao retired. He is also averaging over four assists and rebounds per game, while leading his team to wins. Nobody thought that this team had a chance to make the playoffs, but at around .500 they have a...
James Harden scored 24 points and matched a career high with 12 assists, Patrick Patterson added 22 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 117-101 on Tuesday night.
Omer Asik had 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won four in a row.
Andrea Bargnani scored 21 points and Terrence Ross added a career-high 19 for the Raptors, who have lost five straight...
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant matched his season high with 37 points, and Oklahoma City beat the Houston Rockets 120-98 on Wednesday night in James Harden's first game back in Chesapeake Energy Arena since being traded by the Thunder before the season.
Harden scored 17 points, but was limited to 3-for-16 shooting. He had six shots blocked by the Thunder.
Houston Rockets (7-7) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4)
Oh, hey there, James. Did not even notice you are gone. Why are you wearing red? There is a game tonight.
Huh? You got traded. I thought you looked less beard-y coming off the bench.
Tonight, James Harden returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since the trade at the beginning of the season that...
I haven’t been the most devout NBA fan yet in this young season, so I was a little surprised to see that more than a month later, Oklahoma City Thunder fans are still mad at James Harden. In case you forgot – or simply don’t care, because it’s so damn trivial – Harden turned down a contract extension from the Thunder because it was reportedly lower than the max deal that...
Tomorrow marks exactly a month since the blockbuster trade that sent OKC’s James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in return for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks. Now that the dust has settled, the Rockets will take on the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena tomorrow night in the 1st matchup between the teams this season. So are the Thunder treating...
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was supposed to be a homecoming for James Harden. After being traded to the Houston Rockets right before the season started, he made his first appearance back in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. However, Kevin Durant spoiled the party. With another all-around strong game of 37 points, seven rebounds and four assists, he led the Thunder to a 120-98 victory at...
Approximately 40 members of the Rockets’ team, coaches and staff are scheduled to fly to Minneapolis from Houston after tonight’s game against Toronto to show support for their coach in attending his daughter, Sasha McHale’s, funeral. Alexandra ”Sasha” McHale passed away on Saturday at just 23, and the team is certain they have to be there for Kevin McHale and his family...
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has not been on the sidelines since November 10th. Originally, the media believed something within the team and his position were at stake. That leave of absence has just been more than that. According to the Houston Chronicle via the LA Times, Kevin McHale’s daughter passed away this past weekend.
Kevin McHale has been on leave since...
HOUSTON -- In the first game after the death of their coach's daughter, the Houston Rockets scorched the nets in a 117-101 win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at the Toyota Center. Sasha McHale, the 23-year-old daughter of coach Kevin McHale, died Saturday after a long battle with lupus. Interim coach Kelvin Sampson again led the Rockets in place of McHale, who...
Brawling is just a Celtics tradition. Here's a sampling of past dustups.
Celtics vs. Heat - 2010
Larry Bird vs. Bill Laimbeer - 1987
Larry Bird vs. Dr J. - 1984
Kevin McHale clotheslines Kurt Rambis - 1984