Three days after James Harden played his final game with the Rockets—a 117–100 loss to the Lakers—he took the podium for his first news conference Friday as a member of the Nets.
Harden, who could make his debut with the Nets on Saturday against the Magic, said he relishes the moment of getting a new start.
"It mean's a lot,"Harden said. "Just coming from eight years in Houston, having a fresh start with some unbelievable talent, the coaching staff. Ultimately, it’s a chance for me to compete for a title."
Harden's wish for competing for a title didn't start when the 2020-21 season kicked off. His quest to be on a team that would be competitive toward winning a championship started when the Rockets were eliminated from the bubble. Harden began to re-evaluate the Rockets' organization from top to bottom.
"I felt like we didn't have a chance," Harden told reporters.
After Harden's comments following the loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night, the former MVP was traded to Brooklyn in a four-team blockbuster deal.
However, James credited the Rockets for orchestrating the trade.
"[The Nets] were at the top of my list, but there were a few other teams involved, it could have got crazy," Harden said. "Credit the Houston Rockets for an unbelievable organization, worked with me as bad as it may look from the outside internally and they made sure I ended up here and [I'm] very appreciative."
Harden said he meant no disrespect when he said the Rockets were not good enough to compete for a championship.
“I’ve been through all the ups and downs in that organization," Harden said. "I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone. I just made a comment that the team, as a whole, wasn’t good enough to compete for a title. I have nothing but love and respect for that organization, for that city, everything that they’ve done for me and my family.”
Nets coach Steve Nash said earlier Friday that he expects Harden to play Saturday, so long as all the players involved with the trade pass their required physical. It is not certain whether Harden will play alongside star guard Kyrie Irving in the game. ESPN's Malika Andrews reported Friday that Harden completed his physical but could not practice with the team.
Irving was fined $50,000 by the league for violating the league’s Health and Safety Protocols for attending an indoor gathering of 15 or more people. Irving has missed the Nets last four games because of personal reasons.
Irving will forfeit $816,889 for the two games he missed during his five-day quarantine period. He will be allowed to return to team activities on Saturday if he continues to test negative for COVID-19.
Harden finished his final game in a Rockets' uniform with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists. It was his fourth consecutive game this season in which he scored 20 points or less. That's his longest sub-20 scoring streak since the 2011-12 season, when he was still with the Thunder.
On Friday, he promised the Nets' organization he would compromise with his teammates and do whatever is asked of him.
"Elite player, an elite teammate and guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to rack up as many wins as we can, Harden said. "Sacrifice."