DETROIT – James Harden delivered a monster debut for Houston Rockets last night with 37 points and 12 assists just hours after the Rockets stumped up the massive contract he had been seeking in Oklahoma City.
Harden, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets on Saturday after the Thunder balked at his demands for a contract extension. The Sixth Man award is given to the player who makes the biggest impact for a team coming off the bench.
While Oklahoma City were reluctant to invest so heavily in Harden, Houston did not hesitate and reached a five-year deal worth roughly $80 million with the new cornerstone of their franchise. Harden showed why the Rockets splashed the cash in a season-opening 105-96 road win over Detroit in Auburn Hills, exploding for a big scoring night and having a career-high in assists.
After playing a supporting role to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City’s run to last season’s NBA Finals, Harden is now the leading man in Houston. “It’s a new role for me. I think everybody knows that,” Harden told reporters. “My job is just to do the best I can every day. I just have to be a leader out there.” The Rockets clearly think he can be that leader.
“James Harden is the foundational-type player we have been looking to add,” said Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “He is ready to make the next move up to join the elite players in the NBA.” Other NBA scores: Clippers 101, Grizzlies 92 Raptors 88, Pacers 90 Nuggets 75, 76ers 84 Bulls 93, Kings 87 Spurs 99, Hornets 95 Mavericks 94, Jazz 113 Warriors 87, Suns 85 Lakers 106, Trail Blazers 116 Grizzlies 92, Clippers 101