The Houston Rockets took a big leap towards not just getting back into the NBA playoffs but becoming a perennial postseason contender, when the team traded for shooting guard James Harden. The three-year veteran had been a key piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder, earning Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2011-12. But after turning down a contract extension, Harden was traded to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and a second round pick.
While the Rockets also acquired three other players in the trade, Harden is expected to suddenly fill a much bigger role in Houston than he enjoyed with the Thunder. The Rockets, who have not made the playoffs in three seasons, have been aggressive this summer in reworking the team, starting with the acquisition of Jeremy Lin.
The young team suddenly has Houston fans hopeful that times are changing for the better, and Harden stated on Monday that he's expecting the team to do very good things in the new future.
"I'm excited to be here," said Harden during Monday's introductory press conference. "They've made me feel welcome. Being around the guys all day today. I think we can have something special here, we're young but those guys want to work and to get better."
General manager Daryl Morey is equally as excited, saying that Harden is the key piece of the team moving forward.
"He's a player we can build around and continue to improve the team," said Morey. "He's an elite offensive player, a complete player. Even though he's a gold medalist and an Olympian and he's made the Finals, I still think he's an underrated player. He's absolutely someone, when they see him step into the role of the star of the Houston Rockets, people are going to realize how good he is."
The Rockets open the regular season on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons at 7:30 p.m. ET.
This story originally appeared on SBNation.com.