From D.C. to OKC to L.A., Harden keeping busy

The parking lot at the Office Depot on Broadway in Edmond was full and the line inside snaked around a few aisles.

James Harden attracted quite the crowd.

About 125 or so Thunder fans came out on Saturday afternoon to get a picture, a handshake and an autograph from Harden as part of a promotional appearance with league sponsors Hewlett-Packard and Office Depot, who are running a sweepstakes to win a trip to the 2011 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Marcus Stapleton, the tour manager, said that Harden is one of the few active players who have made an appearance on the tour. Former NBA players such as Rolando Blackman (Dallas), Nick Anderson (Orlando), P.J. Brown (New Orleans) and Clyde Drexler (Houston) have been at the other tour stops. Stapleton said that Harden drew as large of a crowd as Drexler, a Hall of Famer.

For Harden, this was a quick stopover in Oklahoma City; he arrived early Saturday afternoon and planned to return to Los Angeles later in the evening.

“Just a meet and greet, sign some autographs and hang out with Thunder fans,” he said. “Just get them ready for next year.”

While the offseason is barely a month old for Harden, he’s already dedicated most of his time to getting better for next season, and that includes further developing a bond off the court with teammates.

Going to movies on the road and hanging out after home games were a common occurrence this past season for the Thunder. That also has extended to the offseason.

Once the season ended, he and rookie Eric Maynor took a mini vacation to Washington, D.C. to hang with teammates Kevin Durant and Jeff Green for a week.

“We really didn’t go anywhere,” Harden said. “We were just at Kevin’s house, playing video games, just having a good time.”

After that, Durant accompanied Harden to Arizona, where Harden met up with his former college coach and attended a friend’s graduation at Arizona State. The next stop for the two was Harden’s hometown of L.A., where the two spent some time with Russell Westbrook.

“Just bonding with one another,” said Harden, who will head to China with Durant next month for the NBA Jam Van Tour. “If we know each other off the court it’s going to click on the court, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Harden said he started working out last week with a focus on his midrange game and becoming a better defender. Harden said he wants to come back to Oklahoma City with a different mindset.

“Now I know what to expect,” he said, “how to go into training camp and how to prepare during the summer.”

Contact Chris Silva