James Harden — Wasn’t disrespectful with comments on Houston Rockets, ready for ‘new start’ with Brooklyn Nets
NEW YORK — After a turbulent ending to his tenure with the Rockets, new Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden said Friday that he doesn’t believe he was disrespectful to anyone at the end of his career in Houston but regrets the way the situation unfolded.
“I’ve been there for a very long time,” Harden said of the Rockets. “I have been through all the ups and downs, you know, with that organization. And I wasn’t disrespectful toward anyone. I just made a comment that the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title. And at this stage in my career, where I am now, that’s what I would love.
“And so, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anybody — especially not to the organization. And like I said, I am excited to be here in Brooklyn and, you know, excited for a new start.”
After an ugly loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Harden told reporters that the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he didn’t believe they were in a position to compete for a title. Harden added that the “situation is crazy” and “something I don’t think can be fixed.”
The next day, his then-teammates chimed in. DeMarcus Cousins said Harden’s comments were “disrespectful,” while Christian Wood said it was “a little bit disappointing.” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said “it was best for the group” that Harden not attend practice.
Later that day, the Nets and Rockets agreed to be part of the four-team trade that landed Harden in Brooklyn.
Speaking at his introductory news conference in Brooklyn on Friday, Harden reiterated that he felt the Rockets “didn’t have a chance” but said some of his behavior and public comments were uncharacteristic of him.
“I regret it because I’m not the type of guy to — I don’t need the attention,” Harden said. “The ultimate goal was to get to somewhere where I can compete, and here I am in Brooklyn.”
Harden added that he has “nothing but love and respect” for the city of Houston and the Rockets as an organization. He also thanked the team and its fans in an Instagram post Friday.
Harden said his preexisting relationship with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni made Brooklyn an even more attractive landing spot.
Nets coach Steve Nash said that as soon as Harden is available to play, he will start. A team spokesperson told ESPN that Harden has completed his physical but is unable to participate in on-court team activities until all players involved in the multi-team trade have passed their physicals.
Harden said Friday that while coming to Brooklyn doesn’t guarantee winning a title, he likes the Nets’ odds. He said he will have to lean into his playmaking abilities to coexist with “elite scorers” like Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“I think, for me, giving myself a chance is very, very important,” Harden said. “Younger, giving myself a chance but wanting to get paid and wanting to take care of my family was very, very important to me. Now, at this stage of my career, it’s giving myself a chance to do something that I haven’t accomplished yet in this league. That’s why I’m here in Brooklyn.
“Obviously we know it’s not easy,” Harden added. “With this roster and this coaching staff and this organization, I think we have a legit chance.”
Harden said that after the Rockets’ second-round exit from the 2020 playoffs, he began to reevaluate his future in Houston. Shortly after the 4-1 series loss to the Lakers in the bubble, D’Antoni made the decision not to attempt to return as Rockets head coach after his contract expired. Weeks after, general manager Daryl Morey resigned.
In mid-November, Harden turned down an extension in Houston that would have made him the first $50 million-per-year player in league history and ESPN reported that Harden had begun to discuss his future with the Rockets brass. He wanted to be traded, and Brooklyn was at the top of his list.
For a time, the Rockets were determined to hang on to Harden, sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, hoping the relationship could be salvaged and they could be competitive this season. Harden never wavered in his desire to be traded, sources said.
Harden did not report at the beginning of training camp. Days before the season opener, he attended a private party in Houston, leading to a $50,000 fine for violating the NBA’s health and safety protocols and preventing him from being available for the opener, which was later postponed.
“It didn’t go as smooth as I would’ve loved it to go,” said Harden, who credited the organization for working with him on the trade. “But I think both sides are happy.”