ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins explains what led to him apologizing to Houston Rockets superstar James Harden.
James Harden‘s path to the Houston Rockets is well known by now, as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey paid what was viewed as a king’s ransom to bring The Beard to Space City. Harden was one of the up-and-coming young stars in the league at the time the trade was orchestrated, and the 2012 Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs was proof of that.
Harden averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, on a staggering 60.9 percent from long-range, and hit all the key shots down the stretch to close out the Spurs. But the small market Thunder were limited financially, as they had just inked Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to max contracts, in addition to signing Kendrick Perkins to a long-term deal.
In spite of those deals, OKC general manager Sam Presti still had Serge Ibaka and Harden to give extensions to, leaving the Thunder with a tough decision on who to prioritize first. Presti offered Harden a less-than-max contract extension, and gave him little time to speak with his agent on the best plan moving forward.
Presti essentially made the decision for Harden, as he abruptly sent him packing to the Houston Rockets, and gave Ibaka the extension. Harden has become one of the most consistent players in the NBA since the trade, as he’s been on the MVP ballot every year since the 2012-13 season, and has even been an MVP finalist for five of the last six seasons.
Harden has already proven to be one of the league’s best scorers ever, while also becoming one of the best post defenders in the last several years. The Rockets inked Harden to a supermax deal, and it’s clear that the situation worked out in he and the Rockets’ favor.
But Houston native and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins wasn’t exactly pleased with how the process played itself out at the time, as he’s gone on record and said that he felt Harden was selfish and didn’t sacrifice enough for the sake of the team. Harden’s continued success with the Rockets was enough proof for Perkins to re-consider his stance on Harden and apologize for not supporting Harden initially.
Why Kendrick Perkins apologized to Rockets’ James Harden
Perkins was recently on the Court Vision podcast with Ben Stinar and former NBA veteran Jameer Nelson and discussed what led him to apologize to Harden after the trade was executed.
“I had to call and apologize to him because we all get caught up in winning championships, or trying to win championships that we forget the bigger picture, which is that this is a job. So I had to realize that this is a job.
If James wouldn’t have ever left OKC, he wouldn’t have signed two $100 million dollar deals with the Rockets. He’s signed over $300 million with them in his NBA [earnings], a $250 million shoe deal, all the things he has done, he wouldn’t have been able to do in OKC.
I had to apologize to him, and still to this day I was like, ‘bro I feel so bad that I even said that.'”
As Perkins notes, Harden wouldn’t have become the superstar he’s ascended to over the course of the last eight seasons, had he stayed in Oklahoma City. Harden would’ve remained in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, which would’ve stunted his growth.
Harden inked a massive endorsement deal with Adidas, won the MVP award, and led the Rockets to the best record in the NBA during the 2017-18 season, while also carrying them to the postseason in each season he’s been with the organization. Harden has also already led the league in points per game, total points, and assists, which has been further proof of how Presti’s de-prioritization has proven to be beneficial for him.
Kudos to Kendrick Perkins for being man enough to issue an apology to Harden, because he certainly wouldn’t have accomplished the things he has in a Houston Rockets uniform had he remained with the Thunder.