Credit: Bill Moore photo

James Harden ended the first half of the Nets’ current NBA schedule last night (Wednesday, March 3) back where his season began—in Houston to face the Rockets, his former team. It was Harden’s first time going up against the Rockets since being traded to the Nets Jan. 13.

Until mid January, when Harden was finally able to orchestrate a trade from Houston to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he had spent eight seasons with the franchise trying to win a championship.With Harden, the Rockets made eight consecutive postseason appearances and two Western Conference Finals.

Harden, 31, has built a remarkable resume. He is a nine-time All-Star, three-time league scoring champion and 2018 NBA MVP. “James has provided us with so many great memories as we’ve watched him grow from Sixth Man of the Year to a perennial All-Star and MVP,” said Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta in a written statement upon trading Harden.

Harden, looking svelte with Brooklyn after showing up overweight to Rockets training camp in December, departed a Rockets team that was 3-6 and struggling in the highly competitive Western Conference. The relationship between him and the organization grew tense after former general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni moved on after the 2020 season.

Morey became the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers and D’Antoni took a position as an assistant coach with the Nets under his former player Steve Nash.

“It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed,” said Harden back in June of his rift with the Rockets. This after turning down the Rockets’ offer of a two-year, $100 million extension. It would have made Harden the first ever NBA player to earn $50 million per season.

Harden’s trade two months ago to the Nets has been reaping them huge dividends, especially with Durant and Irving in and out of the Nets’ lineup this season due to injuries in addition to a personal leave of absence for Irving. He was averaging 25.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and a league leading 11.1 assists prior to last night’s game.

On Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs on the road, Harden dropped 30 points, added 15 assists and had 14 rebounds in 44 minutes of play and turnovers in a 124-113 overtime Brooklyn win. It was the Nets’ 10th win in their previous 11 games, and at 23-13 they were only a half game behind the 23-12 Sixers for the best overall record in the Eastern Conference.

It was Harden’s seventh triple-double in the 22 games that he’s played with the Nets. Irving had 27 points and 7 assists as the duo carries the team while Durant recovers from a strained hamstring. Durant has been out with the injury since Feb. 13.

“We have to implement the phrase ‘get used to it,’” Irving said after Harden’s impressive performance. Without Durant and Irving Saturday night versus the Dallas Mavericks, a 115-98 defeat, their first since Feb. 9, Harden compiled 29 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

“He’s a brilliant basketball player,” said Brooklyn’s head coach Steve Nash. “He literally can do almost everything there is to do out there. He’s been a great leader for us.”