A big smile peeked out from behind James Harden’s famously bushy beard as the Rockets superstar was asked how it felt to have signed the richest contract in NBA history.
“Sounds good,” Harden said during a Saturday news conference to announce the four-year maximum contract extension that means he will make $228 million over the next six seasons. “But honestly, the only thing at this point of my career is winning, to get a championship.
“It’s cool. I’ve worked extremely hard. Thanks to [Rockets owner Leslie] Alexander for giving me that opportunity, but it doesn’t really mean anything without holding that championship up. That’s what we’re working toward. That’s why I’m in the gym every single day, and I won’t stop until I get it.”
Harden said the contract symbolizes a lifetime commitment to the Rockets, the franchise that traded for him in 2012 and has built around him since then.
“I know where home is,” said Harden, an All-Star all five of his seasons in Houston. “I know where I want to be. I know where I want to retire ultimately and where I want to win a championship. Everything is going to happen here in Houston, and that’s the reason I’m here forever.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who made a blockbuster deal in June to pair Chris Paul with Harden, described it as an “easy” decision to commit to a max extension with the 27-year-old Harden with two seasons left on his current contract.
“We would do more if we could,” Morey said. “This is the most they allow us to do. You work your whole career if you’re myself to get a player of James’ caliber and now Chris’ caliber. We’re excited. … We would have done longer and more money if we could.”
Harden, who ranked second in the NBA in scoring (29.1 PPG) and first in assists (11.2 APG) last season, played a critical role in recruiting Paul to the Rockets because he recognized that he needed help for Houston to be a legitimate title contender. Morey made a blockbuster deal to acquire Paul in late June after the nine-time All-Star point guard made it clear to the LA Clippers that he would opt out of the final year of his contract and sign with the Rockets in free agency if not traded to Houston.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen anything like this before,” Harden said of his partnership with Paul, pairing two of the NBA’s premier playmakers in a backcourt. “Two guys that can create and facilitate and do things with the ball that nobody’s done from the [point guard] and shooting guard position. It’s going to be fun.”
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