James Harden has agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract extension with the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets acquired the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in a stunning trade with Oklahoma City on Saturday night. Harden was in the starting lineup when Houston opened the regular season at Detroit on Wednesday night.
”We have him for this year and five more, so six years,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. ”Our goal is to do a good enough job as a staff that we win, make the playoffs, develop the young guys and that we never, ever, ever come to camp again with 13 new guys.”
Houston also picked up the options for forwards Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson for the 2013-14 season. The Rockets have undergone a bit of an overhaul this season, adding Harden and guard Jeremy Lin.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey called Harden a ”foundational player” at his introductory news conference this week. He will become the featured player in Houston after three seasons in a supporting role behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Thunder last season. He started only seven games in three seasons with Oklahoma City but became an indispensable reserve.
Morey acknowledged he was ”shocked” that Harden was available, and said the deal came together within a few days last week. The Rockets have been trying to land a first-tier star for years, failing in an aggressive bid to sign Dwight Howard over the summer.
The Rockets were close to getting Pau Gasol before last season in a proposed deal that also would have sent All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. But NBA commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, vetoed the deal that would have brought Lamar Odom to the Hornets, along with Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick.
McHale and Morey said before training camp began that the objective this season was making the playoffs. That remains the same, although with Harden on board, it seems much more reachable.