Shock waves were sent through the NBA even before the 2020-21 season tipped off when word leaked that James Harden demanded a trade from the Houston Rockets.
Now, the former NBA MVP is reflecting on the drama-filled, contentious and controversial end to his time in Houston ahead of his first return trip to town with the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.
Harden opened up about his time with the Rockets and what lies ahead with the Nets in a wide-ranging interview with Malika Andrews of ESPN.
“I thought I would never leave that franchise,” James Harden told ESPN. “Things happened… it doesn't change the fact of how I feel about the city.”— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 3, 2021
New story on Harden’s return to Houston, winter storm relief efforts, and more: https://t.co/ACQkeNGFZw
“I thought I would never leave that franchise. I thought I was going to be in Houston, obviously, for the rest of my career,” Harden told Andrews. “Things happened. I’ve got different goals, and I’ve seen a different vision for myself and my career and my family.
“Like I said, it doesn’t change the fact of how I feel about the city. But it just didn’t go as well — as smooth — as I planned. The communication between myself and the front office got a little shaky. And now I look back at it and I see these other scenarios, other situations that are happening, specifically around other players that are in Houston, in different sports. And their transition is going very smooth. And I would’ve hoped for mine to go that smooth, but it didn’t. I am where I am now.”
Harden’s acknowledgment that he bears a share of responsibility for how things went sideways with the Rockets following his trade demand follows his apology last month over the drama surrounding his ultimate exit out of Houston.
Once the trade was formalized, Harden bid a remarkably heartfelt farewell to the Rockets organization and its fans despite his tumultuous finals days with the team and the manner in which he burned every bridge with the organization.
As he has attempted to make clear on several occasions over the past few months, Harden remains resolute in his commitment to the Houston region.
The NBA star has been actively providing relief to the region’s residents who were besieged by crippling cold weather last month, including providing meals through his recently opened restaurant, Thirteen.
“I feel like I’m a part of the community,” Harden said. “Me now being in Brooklyn, it hasn’t changed the way I feel about that city and everything it’s done for me. So whether it’s trying to feed as many people as I can, get water, as much water as I can to the people that need it.”
Harden hopes his eight outstanding seasons with the Rockets — albeit a run that closed with an unsatisfying conclusion given he was unable to lead the team to a championship — along with his relief efforts have built up some goodwill with Rockets fans ahead of his return to Toyota Center on Wednesday night.
“The love and the appreciation that I’ve given to that city and that I still give to that city, I’m hoping that the favor can be returned,” Harden said.