With the upcoming uncertainty of the NBA salary cap explosion and the spending bonanza surely to follow, there's going to be a lot of financial opportunity available and hence, a lot of moving parts in the league. Some unexpected things are certain to happen.
It's refreshing then, in these soon-to-come uncharted waters, to see a superstar make a declaration like James Harden did this week, when he told the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen that he "definitely" plans on finishing his career in Houston.
Harden told Feigen:
"I'm at a good stage right now. Everything is flowing, everything is what I imagined it would be. My family is great. Friends. Everyone is in a good place right now.
"Obviously, my work place is amazing, the people I'm surrounded with, that I come to work with every day. I'm in a happy place. Fans here in Houston show me so much love and support. Everything is flowing in a positive way right now. I'm all smiles... definitely it's going to end here."
Lest you fret that Harden's personal contentment combined with how much he's already achieved professionally may make him fat and happy while living high on the hog, he still remains his usual grounded self.
When Feigen asked Harden if he still had the same desire, he responded:
"Always. I'm the last one on the court. I'm still hungry. I have a long ways to go. I'm just getting started."
Maintaining the down-to-earth, relatable persona that makes him such a hit with fans, Harden continued:
"I'm really like a normal guy. I like to do normal things. Just because I'm a professional basketball player, I'm not going to sit in the house and not do anything. I'm going to go to Target. I'm going to go to Petco and get food for my dog. I'm going to go to Chipotle.
"...I'm going to be respectful, I'm not going to disrespect anybody. I'm not going to say anything too crazy, but for the most part, I'm just going to be free and be a loving and caring type of guy."
Having a content, 26-year-old superstar who wants to be with the organization long term is obviously great news for the Rockets, and staying with the team till his career's end should elevate Harden into the upper echelon of historic Rockets players speculates Zach Harper of CBSsports.com.
Harper points out that Harden is already fourth all-time on the Rockets in three pointers made, eighth in free throws made and currently holds the highest overall scoring average in team history.
Harper also mentions:
"Replicating his production from last season as a scorer would move him from fourteenth in franchise scoring up to ninth after just this season. Another year of that would jump him to sixth behind Hakeem Olajuwon, Calvin Murphy, Rudy Tomjanovich, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone.
"He'd only be 28 at that point and still in his prime. Let's conservatively project him at this pace of production from 28 to 32. That would put him in the neighborhood of 19,000 points as a Rocket, which would put him second all-time in scoring and within 7500 points of Olajuwon for the franchise lead.
"...Not to mention, he'll be the franchise leader in threes, free throws, and knocking on the door in assists."
So by the time Harden finishes up his current deal (he has two more years at $17 million per left), he could very easily rank up there statistically alongside the biggest names this franchise has ever known. If he leaves then, that would be his Houston legacy. Great. But not the greatest.
If he stays? Only the success of his team in the postseason could be the variable separating Harden from Olajuwon's legendary status in Houston.
If he finishes with the numbers and the rings? We very well could be looking at Houston Rockets history in the making.
Supplanting The Dream is difficult, and to some, myself included, watching Olajuwon's unmatched combination of grace and power will always be the ultimate basketball experience as a fan of the game, but it would be hard to argue with Harden's place if he does, in fact, sustain and improve upon his current success.
All this becomes possible if The Beard stays healthy and stays in town.
So what say you, Rockets fans? Does The Beard hang forever in H-town? And if so, where does he end up in the franchise's halls of history?