HOUSTON - James Harden was brought to Houston to be a foundation piece, an All-Star-caliber player around whom the Rockets could build on their way back to title contention. The 23-year-old has delivered upon that promise from the moment he first stepped on the floor this season and, as a result, his stellar performance was rewarded this evening with the first of what figures to be many All-Star selections over the course of his career.
Harden was one of 14 players selected by NBA head coaches as a reserve for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, which was announced tonight by the league. This marks the first time Harden has been selected as an All-Star. Overall, Harden becomes the 15th player in Rockets history to be named to an All-Star squad. He is also the first Houston player selected to an All-Star Game since Yao Ming was voted in as a starter in 2011.
"Definitely an honor just to be named an All-Star for my first time," said Harden via conference call after the news was made official. "Obviously it’s a great individual accomplishment. Credit to my teammates and my coaching staff for putting me in a position to be successful.
"It definitely means a lot to me because it’s my first year as a leader and as a head guy on a team in Houston. So it definitely means a lot more. It’s overwhelming right now, but it’s a great feeling. Just to be my first time in no other city but Houston. It means a lot I’ll be hosting. I’ll be on the front page of it."
Harden's selection also means he'll be spending All-Star weekend reuniting with a pair of his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
"Obviously we have different jerseys on now, but they’ve been in this situation before. They’ve been All-Stars plenty of times. Just to be alongside those guys and the guys I was with this summer at the Olympics will be really good.
"It shows how dedication and hard work I put in is definitely paying off. I’m getting recognition. I just have to keep working hard and stay humble."
Harden, who was acquired by Houston in a trade with Oklahoma City on Oct. 27, 2012, took his game to an All-Star level right from the start of the season. Twice named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week this season (Oct. 30-Nov. 4 and Dec. 31-Jan. 6), Harden broke onto the scene with the Rockets by totaling an NBA record 82 combined points in his first two outings, which were the most points scored by a player in his first two games with a new team in NBA history.
Harden currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring average (25.8), tied for seventh in steals per game (1.88) and leads the NBA in free throws made (366-428 FT) and attempts per game. He recently recorded a streak of 20-plus point games in a career-high 22 consecutive outings (12/7/12-1/16/13), which ranks as the fifth longest such streak in Rockets history. Harden actually scored 25 or more points in 14 consecutive games (12/16/12-1/9/13), which set the franchise record previously held by Moses Malone at 13 in a row (1/26/82-2/23/82). In addition, Harden led the Rockets in scoring outright (no ties) in 20 straight games (12/12/12-1/16/13), which stands as the second longest streak in team annals (23 games by Malone from 2/26/82-4/11/82).
The 14 players selected – seven each from the Eastern and Western Conferences – were chosen by the 30 NBA head coaches, who were asked to vote for seven players in their respective conferences – three frontcourt players, two guards and two additional players at any position. They were not permitted to vote for players from their own team.
The 62nd NBA All-Star Game will be played at Toyota Center in Houston on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 (7:00 p.m. CT). The All-Star Game will be televised exclusively on TNT and broadcast exclusively on ESPN Radio in the U.S. The broadcast will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.