PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 13: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets watches from the bench during the first half of the preseason NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 13, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo : Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
James Harden has reaped the benefits of his celebrated move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets back in 2012 and it seems he cannot ask for anything more.
Long playing under the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the Thunder, Harden found himself in new territory when he and the Thunder failed to come to terms on a contract extension.
He was traded to the Rockets along with Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a three future picks, something that catapulted him to new heights.
Harden has been phenomenal ever since, one reason perhaps why Adidas invested heavily on the 26-year-old guard. He was among the frontrunners for the Most Valuable Player award last year but eventually lost out to Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry.
He would eventually sign a whopping $80 million five-year contract with the Rockets which somehow falls short of the ruckus about the impending salary cap hikes set to start next season. So will money be a factor in luring him out of Houston in the long run?
For now, the thought of Harden leaving the Rockets seems unlikely. As the bearded one claims, he seems to have found a place where he is appreciated and pretty much comfortable with. In short, it seems that Harden can hardly ask for more outside the money angle.
With that said, Harden says he sees himself retiring as a Houston Rocket. And at the rate that he is performing, he could potentially turn out to be the club’s all-time great.
For now, that honor belongs to long-time Rocket center, Hakeem Olajuwon. Everyone knows what the Dream has given to the franchise, holding records left and right. But with Harden’s progress, breaking records and probably leading the Rockets to new heights is not farfetched.
There are however differences between the two.
For one, Olajuwon started his career with the Houston Rockets in 1984 and had a short stint with the Toronto Raptors in 2001-02 before deciding to retire. Harden as everyone knows spent three-years with the Thunder before moving on to the Rockets.
Aside from that, both play different positions. Olajuwon did his work mostly inside the paint while Harden can shoot it from the outside or take it inside. The difference alone could account for the mileage that Harden stands to accomplish in Houston, barring any untoward injuries in his career.
A fitting piece for Harden would be to lead the Rockets to NBA titles. Olajuwon did it in 1994-95 so it will be interesting to see if Harden can equal or do better.
For the Rockets to do that, title aspirations don’t solely fall on Harden’s performance. Olajuwon had reliable backup back then (Clyde Drexler, Mario Ellie and Kenny Smith to name a few). Harden has a tested center (Dwight Howard) and a sane supporting cast in Ty Lawson, Patrick Beverly, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer.
Regardless of how talented Harden’s supporting cast would be, it will be also about how Harden is able to keep the team together en route to a title run.