James Harden said he was not trying to show off after his triple-double fuelled the high-flying Brooklyn Nets in the former NBA MVP's first game against the Houston Rockets since his blockbuster trade.
Harden showed no mercy on Wednesday, his 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds guiding the Nets to a 132-114 victory over the Rockets in Houston.
The former Rockets star received a mixed response from fans at Toyota Center midweek following the "drama" surrounding his January exit, having demanded a trade after more than eight seasons.
After condemning the struggling and injury-hit Rockets to a 13th consecutive defeat, Harden reflected on his return to Houston.
"I'm excited," Harden said. "We got a win. We've been playing very, very good basketball, and to finish out strong like this to in the All-Star break means a lot to us. Hopefully we can get guys healthy; KD [Kevin Durant], Jeff [Green], TLC [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot], and after the break just keep rolling.
"As far as playing in Houston, a lot of mixed emotions from the fans, but knew that was gonna happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show."
Led by Harden, the Rockets reached two Western Conference Finals, while Houston earned three semi-final appearances after the nine-time All-Star was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.
The Rockets are planning to retire Harden's number 13 jersey in Houston.
"Hopefully I did something right," Harden said. "Obviously I came up short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that I put in over the past eight years was elite you know.
"I think that's the only thing I didn't do, or didn't accomplish is a championship, which is difficult to attain, but as far as bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the court is something that I try to contribute, so hopefully that outweighs that."
Harden has starred since joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, where he has already tallied eight triple-doubles in a Nets uniform – second in franchise history behind Jason Kidd.
On Wednesday, Harden ensured the Nets closed out the first half of the NBA season with their 10th win in 11 games heading into the All-Star break.
The Nets, who have recorded seven straight road wins, are 24-13 ahead of Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta – only half a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.
"So far, so good. Everything that I signed up for," added Harden. "Top to bottom, it's been great. Adversity has hit us as far as not missing any games, so we've been playing every other day schedule wise and then we're affected by injuries, guys in and out of the line-ups, crazy, weird things happening, but I think we've fought through adversity and we're in a really good position.
"Now we know each other a little bit better. Now it's time to get some rest, take care of your body and be ready to go. Second half is gonna be huge for us in the sense of how fast we can get off to a great start. Everybody goes through the same thing. There’' no excuses, and we're not here to make any."