Harden a Rocket for 4 more years

LOS ANGELES • The Houston Rockets have inked star guard James Harden to a four-year contract extension worth US$118 million (S$158.8 million), the National Basketball Association team said on Saturday.

The deal was announced after their introduction of newly acquired free agents Eric Gordon and forward Ryan Anderson.

Harden said: "Ever since I stepped foot in Houston, it's nothing but love... I'm happy to be here another four years. It's been a progress. It's been a build-up.

"That's one of the reasons why I wanted to lock in for these next four years, so I could focus on my legacy and focus on winning and doing unbelievable things here that haven't been done in a long time."

Harden, 26, arrived in Houston prior to the 2012-13 season via a trade from Oklahoma City. With the Rockets, he has developed into one of the league's premier scorers.

Under the deal, his annual salary will go from US$16 million to US$26.5 million under the new salary cap next season, and increase incrementally over the remainder of the contract.

Harden enjoyed the best season of his career in 2015-16, averaging 29 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game for a Rockets team who were eliminated in the first round of the play-offs by the eventual finalists Golden State Warriors.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was equally excited as he announced the big move.

"I don't think people appreciate how great he is," he said, "but we certainly do."

Houston will be seeking a better start next season under new coach Mike D'Antoni and in the absence of centre Dwight Howard, who has signed with the Atlanta Hawks.

"Dwight made his decision in free agency," general manager Daryl Morey said.

"Now we're building a new core with James here for a long time and all these guys signed for a long time. Everyone can just focus on basketball and everyone can focus on winning."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Harden a Rocket for 4 more years'. Print Edition | Subscribe