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James Harden's Epic Debut Proves He's Worth Every Penny of New Contract

October 31, 2012; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket in the first half against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2017

James Harden's debut with the Houston Rockets was an absolute rocket ride as he scored 37 points, dished 12 assists, grabbed six rebounds and added four steals. The last time a Rocket had a game like that was Sleepy Floyd in 1989

According to Alex Kennedy, Harden's performance was historic for another reason as well. 

James Harden is the first player in NBA history to have at least 30 points and 12 assists in first game with a new team.

— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) November 1, 2012

Anyone wondering if Harden had the potential to carry a team has to be second guessing that assessment, at least for now. 

It would have been easy for the young 23-year-old shooting guard, who was stunned mere days ago to learn that he was being traded away from the only NBA family he had ever known, to have struggled in his first game as a Rocket. It certainly would have been forgivable. 

Instead, Harden made history. 

You can argue that the feat lost some luster having come against Detroit. Of course, the answer to that is that he scored 37 points and had 12 assists.

No matter the opponent, when a player contributes 61 points, either through scoring or assisting in their first ever game with a team, it's not easy to dismiss.

There was one sequence where the real impact of Harden was described by Mike Prada:

Such a smart play by Harden. He orders Parsons to the wing, calls Asik over to clear the lane, then quickly swings it to CP for the layup

— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) November 1, 2012

It's not just the play of Harden, it's the leadership and the basketball intelligence he brings to the team.

The 37 points is impressive, but the 12 assists is phenomenal when you consider he had never played a game with this team before—not even a preseason game.

Yet his chemistry with the team was absolutely seamless. 

He wasn't the first option in Oklahoma City, but you'd never guess that the way that he was directing the Houston offense. 

Harden won't average 37 points and 12 assists a game. His leadership will be a consistent factor game after game though, and that's perhaps the more important thing, especially when you consider the youth of the Houston Rockets. 

The other starters are Chandler Parsons, a second-year player who was a second round draft pick, Omer Asik, who is in his third year in the league but first season as a starter, the mercurial Jeremy Lin, and Marcus Morris, who is also in his second year.

Among this group of veritable NBA infants, Harden, whose beard famously bespeaks his wisdom, is as needed for his leadership as he is for his skill set. 

Whether you're looking at his ridiculous numbers or his venerable leadership, Harden established that he is worth every bit of his new max contract. 

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