Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas tried to use the same tone and emotion Wednesday night when it came to James Harden’s turn in the starting lineup introductions, as he did for the previous eight seasons.
The circumstances, of course, were quite different. So was the reaction from Houston Rockets fans, who greeted Harden with a mixture of cheers and boos as the 2017-18 MVP returned to face his former team for the first time since his request for be traded to the Brooklyn Nets seven weeks ago. .
“As for playing in Houston, there were a lot of mixed emotions for the fans, but I knew that was going to happen,” Harden said. “I just wanted to come here and give them a show.”
Harden succeeded with the kind of spectacular performance that has been almost routine for him since joining the Nets. He had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists to lead Brooklyn to a 132-114 victory over the injury-ravaged Rockets, his eighth triple-double in 23 games for the Nets, who enter the All-Star break after having won 10 of their matches. last 11 games.
It was the 13th straight loss for the Rockets, who were limited to eight available players, as the franchise’s longest losing streak in two decades lasted until the All-Star break.
“From the way we’ve been losing, we definitely need a break to clear our minds, find ourselves, try to get some guys healthy, try to have a whole team again,” Rockets point guard John said. Wall, who scored 36 points. in 12 of 30 shots in 41 minutes. “I don’t know when was the last time we had a full team. Tonight we came in with only eight guys, but we didn’t stop fighting. We kept competing, we kept fighting, and that’s something you can respect.”
A handful of fans in the reduced-ability crowd booed Harden every time he touched the ball early in the game, expressing disgust that Harden forced the Rockets to trade him, a divorce process that he acknowledged turned more tense and bitter. than it would have been. appreciated. Harden, who according to the Elias Sports Bureau investigation became the sixth player to score a triple-double in his first game against his former team, said the boos didn’t affect him.
“Once I get to that court, I’m just trying to win,” said Harden, who shot 10 of 15 from the court. “I’m not really worried about anything else. That was my feeling: to win the game and do whatever it takes to do what you’ve been doing. I wasn’t trying to show off, I wasn’t trying to do something out of the ordinary that isn’t there. been doing “.
The Rockets as an organization gave Harden a warm welcome back to Houston. He chatted and hugged various Houston staff members and players before and after the game. A tribute video, featuring highlights from Harden’s eight seasons in Houston and his charitable acts in the community, was played during the first time out of the game.
“You could tell it meant something to him,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “This place is special to James. Houston means a lot to him – the city, the organization, what he accomplished here with this team. I know it was a great game for him. I’m proud of the way he handled it.” . “
Harden said he learned “on the Internet” Tuesday that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta plans to eventually remove Harden’s No. 13 jersey and hang it on the rafters of the Toyota Center.
“My reaction was, hopefully, to have done something right. Obviously, I fell short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that [I] “In those last eight years he was elite,” he said. “I think that’s the only thing I didn’t do or didn’t achieve, it was a championship, which is difficult to achieve. But when it comes to bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the pitch, it’s something that I tried to contribute so hopefully that outweighs that. [lack of a championship]. “