The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are gearing up for their first of three scheduled matchups during the 2012-13 season, and each promises to be a feisty battle between two teams with a lot of bad blood.
Right before the campaign began, the franchises agreed to a blockbuster trade that saw James Harden, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward land in Houston, while Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder made their way to OKC.
When that many players swap teams, especially a star as big as Harden, the initial contests following the deal always become a must-see event.
While Harden is maintaining that he is harboring no ill will for his former franchise, Cook believes otherwise, according to a Houston Chronicle report by Jonathan Feigen.
"He’s [Harden’s] going to be in a different zone,” Cook said. “At the end of the day, if anybody knows, I know this game means a lot to him. He’s going to want to play his best basketball. This game means so much right now to him. You’re going to see a different mindset with him.”
Which team will win this matchup?
Remember, the former Arizona State star was selected No. 3 overall in the 2009 draft and played the first three years of his career with the Thunder. He was teammates with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC and on Team USA in the 2012 London Olympic Games, becoming extremely close with them and forming a superstar trio that made the NBA Finals last season.
Now he’s part of a rebuilding effort with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin as his best running mates—which could be worse—over a few million dollars that the stingy Thunder brass refused to give him.
OKC coach Scott Brooks also has a vendetta against the Rockets, and has openly acknowledged this isn’t just another one of the 82 games on the slate this year.
His grudge has nothing to do with the recent trade, but something long filed away in the annals of NBA history.
As per Feigen’s article:
“It’s not another game,” Brooks told media in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, playing with the notion of a reunion game for Harden, Kevin Martin and others in the trade. “I want to beat the Rockets. They traded me in the second championship year . It took me five years to get over Rudy Tomjanovich [then-Rockets coach]. Now we’re best buddies. But yeah, it’s still personal.”
We expect to see both teams pull out all stops when they square off on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. It’s going to be a bloodbath and you will not want to miss it. Catch it live on NBA TV and make sure you keep an eye on both Harden, coach Brooks and the rest of the players involved in the trade.