On Tuesday night, Harden took another step or two toward being a full-blown villain within the borders of the Sooner State. According to Rockets.com's Jason Friedman, Harden took to barking at the rowdy Chesapeake Arena crowd about their love for him during the Rockets' latest visit to OKC:
James Harden to the OKC crowd: "You loved me when I was here, though. It's that simple."— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) March 12, 2014
Not that his claim is in any way shocking. When Harden last wore a Thunder uniform in June of 2012, he did so in the NBA Finals—as the league's Sixth Man of the Year, no less. Harden's series against the Miami Heat wasn't pretty (12.4 points on 37.5 percent shooting), but the then-23-year-old swingman was no less vital to OKC advancing that far in the first place. He tortured the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference playoffs, thereby solidifying OKC as a dynasty-in-the-making and himself as a key cog therein.
Or so it seemed. Four months later, the failure of the Thunder and Harden to bridge a relatively meager gap in salary considerations led the former to ship the latter (along with a collection of salary cap flotsam) to Houston in a trade that's been widely derided as one of the most lopsided in recent memory.
OKC has fared well enough in Harden's absence. The Thunder won 60 games and claimed the top seed in the Western Conference in 2012-13, before their playoff push was derailed by Russell Westbrook's Patrick Beverley-induced knee injury. OKC lost Kevin Martin, one of the chief returns from the Harden trade, to free agency this past summer, but have turned Jeremy Lamb and rookie Steven Adams, both of whom were part of the same bounty, into important members of Scott Brooks' rotation.
Still, it's tough not to feel as though OKC got fleeced by Houston GM Daryl Morey. The Rockets have since blossomed into a title contender, with Harden helping to lay the foundation that led Dwight Howard to sign on this past July.
And with Harden taunting his former fans and going toe-to-toe with Adams in a mid-game tiff, it's clear that the Thunder's one-time super sub won't be torturing his old pals with his game alone from here on out.
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