James Harden will play in Oklahoma City wearing a different colored uniform tonight for the first time ever.
Harden was traded by the Thunder to the Houston Rockets a few days before the regular season this year and will now make his return to Chesapeake Arena for the first time since the trade.
It has to be the most anticipated home game of the year for the Thunder and it will be the only time Oklahoma City hosts Houston this season.
Harden left abruptly as news of the trade broke late on a Saturday night and most fans probably didn’t hear about it until waking up Sunday morning. There was some speculation that Harden might be traded but no Thunder fan truly believed it would happen and especially so soon.
Harden has been blamed by some for his departure. He clearly wanted a max contract, something he now has in Houston, and he would have had to sacrifice to stay in OKC. Sacrificing is something Harden said he would do all along to keep playing for the Thunder but in the end, that just wasn’t true.
Harden is a professional athlete that looked out for himself more than anyone else in this situation. And Thunder GM Sam Presti is a business man that did essentially the same thing, making a decision that he felt would keep the Thunder in the title hunt for the next decade.
It will be interesting to see the home crowd’s reaction tonight upon seeing Harden wearing another uniform. There might be some boos but it shouldn’t be the overwhelming sound. He’s not hated in OKC for leaving. Mostly he is just missed.
Thunder fans will get a chance to see Harden play in front of them for the one and only times this season. The pressure that will be on Harden will be the most since he played in the NBA Finals, and we all know how that turned out for him.
Harden will warm up, acting cool as usual trying to act like this is just another game. He will undoubtedly go over and exchange hugs and daps with the Thunder players. You’ll have to look closely to make out Harden’s smile beneath the beard but it will be there.
It will feel weird seeing this. No one expected it to be this way so soon and we are really just getting used to not watching Harden on a night-to-night basis in the Peake.
Harden should be hungry to impress tonight. He was in ‘eff you mode right after being traded dropping 37 then a career-high 45 points in his first two games with the Rockets. He shouldn’t have that kind of success vs. the Thunder but he should also be up for this game.
Make no mistakes about it, OKC will be focusing all of their defensive effort to stop Harden in this game. The Rockets probably aren’t good enough to resist this so it won’t be easy for Harden.
It will kind of be the first test to see what Harden is really made of. If he has a big game it will be truly impressive. The odds are really stacked against him tonight.
So life goes on with the Thunder this year. They’re a new team but it will be impossible to not think about what could have been. That thought will be closest to everyone’s minds tonight as the Beard returns to OKC.