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James Harden explains his reasoning for requesting a trade, adding that he wasn’t being disrespectful.

James Harden addressed the media Friday for the first time since joining the Brooklyn Nets in Wednesday’s blockbuster trade and countered the narrative he was disrespectful to former teammates, while explaining his rationale for wanting to depart the Houston Rockets.

“I wasn’t disrespectful to anyone,” Harden said. “Those guys had just got there to Houston. I’ve been there for a very long time. I’ve been through all the ups and downs with that organization, and I wasn’t disrespectful towards anyone. I just made a comment that the team as a whole wasn’t good enough to compete for a title. And the stage in my career where I am now, that’s what I would love. So, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anybody, especially not to the organization. Like I said, I’m excited to be here in Brooklyn, excited for a new start.”

Harden landed with the Nets, after a controversial end to a brilliant nine-year tenure in Houston.

Although Harden, reportedly, had been seeking a trade before the season even tipped off, the situation came to a head on Tuesday in the aftermath of Houston’s 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Harden told the media on a Zoom call after the game that “we’re just not good enough,” before adding that “I literally have done everything that I can. This situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

Those remarks resulted in scathing commentary from Rockets teammates with DeMarcus Cousins saying, “the disrespect started way before any interview,” before adding that “it’s completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room.”

Houston point guard John Wall initially said “no comment” when asked about Harden’s postgame remarks on Tuesday.

“But when you have certain guys in the mix that don’t want to buy in all in one, it’s gonna be hard to do anything special, to do anything good as a basketball team,” Wall later added.

The ensuing firestorm led to Rockets coach Stephen Silas excusing Harden from Wednesday’s practice at the Toyota Center.

The coach admitted Wednesday that Harden’s remarks “were hard to hear, especially when you don’t believe it and know it not to be true.”

Harden expressed remorse for the way things played out in his last days in Houston, but explained that he took a hard look at the organization, and “felt like we didn’t have a chance” after it fell in the playoffs last season to the Lakers in just five games.

“Yeah, I regret because I’m not the type of guy to… I don’t need the attention, especially the negative energy, the negative attention. I’ve never been that guy,” Harden said. “So, there were some things I felt like out of my character, but the ultimate goal was to get somewhere where I could compete, and here I am in Brooklyn. I have nothing but love and respect for that organization, that city, and everything it has ever done for me and my family. Much respect.”

With Harden joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, the Nets now have three players with All-NBA talent.

“It’s not a guarantee that me coming to Brooklyn is guaranteeing a title, but I think for me, giving myself a chance is very, very important,” Harden said. “[When I was] younger, giving myself a chance [was important], but wanting to get paid and wanting to take care of my family was very, very important to me. Now, at this stage of my career, it’s giving myself a chance to do something that I haven’t accomplished yet in this league. That’s very important to me now, and that’s the situation that I’m in. That’s why I’m here in Brooklyn. I’m excited for the opportunity. Obviously, we know it’s not easy. It’s not gonna be easy at all. But with this roster, this coaching staff and this organization, I think we have a legit chance.”

Brooklyn was Harden’s preferred destinations all along, which he confirmed, and Wednesday’s move reunites him with former Oklahoma City teammate, Durant, as well as former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who worked with the All-Star guard for four seasons in Houston and is now an assistant on the Nets’ staff.

Harden and Durant have captured seven of the last 11 NBA scoring titles, and according to Elias Sports Bureau, become the fifth pair of teammates in league history to play on the same team after winning multiple scoring titles.

Isiah Thomas says the Nets are clear favorites to win the championship.

Harden thanked the Houston Rockets organization and the city’s fans Friday in an Instagram post, and later discussed what Net fans can expect from the team’s newest addition.

“An elite player, an elite teammate, an elite leader and just a guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to rack up as many wins as we can; sacrifice,” Harden said. “It means a lot. Just coming from eight years in Houston, having a fresh start with some unbelievable talent, the coaching staff. Ultimately, it’s a chance for me to compete for a title.”

The start of the chase could come as soon as Saturday, as Nets coach Steve Nash hopes Harden can start against the Orlando Magic. Nash expressed uncertainty about whether the new acquisition would get the opportunity to play alongside Irving, who was fined $50,000 by the league for violating health and safety protocols for attending an indoor gathering of 15 people or more. Irving has been out the past five games because of personal reasons.

That didn’t temper Nash’s excitement about adding Harden to an already potent roster, as the coach pointed out the move was a must for a team harboring championship aspirations. Nash expects the Nets to experience a period of adjustment as Harden learns to play with Durant and Irving, after playing such a ball-dominant role in Houston.

“It’s about how they play together and how willing they are to work and make each other better.”

Steve Nash discusses Harden’s fit with KD and Kyrie in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/wTnfdVpHUb

— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 15, 2021

“We obviously got one of the premier players in the world,” Nash said. “We want to win a championship for sure. That’s why we made the deal. We’re a brand-new entity that has to figure it out, but that is the end goal.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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