The Rockets' James Harden argues a call during the second...

The Rockets' James Harden argues a call during the second half of a Western Conference semifinal playoff game against the Lakers on Sept. 12, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

When James Harden forced the Rockets to trade him to the Nets, he criticized his Houston teammates as "not good enough" to win a title and displayed a generally disinterested attitude. Rockets newcomers DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall described Harden as "disrespectful," but longtime teammate PJ Tucker defended him.

Asked if he had regrets about his departure, Harden insisted, "I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone. Those guys had just got there in Houston. I’ve been there for a very long time through all the ups and downs. I wasn’t disrespectful toward anyone. I just made a comment that the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title."

Nets coach Steve Nash said he’s not worried about inheriting a player with an attitude problem. "I think James carried that team for many years," Nash said. "Gave them everything he had. Since he asked for a trade, I think that’s a sample size that’s fairly irrelevant as far as judging him."

Harden on Harden

During his introductory news conference with the Nets on Friday, Harden offered a number of pungent comments that showed a strong sense of humor and belief in himself. When asked what kind of condition he is in, given his pudgy appearance this season, Harden laughed and gave a one-word answer: "Great!"

That was followed later by a question about whether he could use criticism of his weight and his defensive ability as fuel for his competitive fire.

"I’m as motivated as they come," Harden said. "I don’t even pay attention to the defense and the conditioning because everyone is starting the same as far as training camp. It doesn’t matter to me. I know I’m one of the best basketball players we have in this league."

Finally, when asked what part of his game must change with the Nets, the defending three-time scoring champion cited his "playmaking ability.''

"We have two elite scorers that the world knows [Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving]," said Harden, who once led the NBA in assists. "My job is to score the basketball when needed, but my playmaking ability as far as getting our shooters shots and our big [men] finishes around the rim and making the entire team better, I think that’s one aspect of my game that will excel in this offense . . . Everybody knows I can score the ball at a high clip, and that’s where the sacrifice comes in at."

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