JAMES Harden expects to enjoy "homecourt advantage" when he returns to the country in October with the rest of the Houston Rockets for the historic NBA preseason game against the Indiana Pacers.
“I think you guys love the Rockets more than the Indiana Pacers,” Harden, one of basketball's fastest-rising stars, said in jest while holding court before local sportswriters during a promotional event for NBA 3X Philippines.
The October 10 game will be the third visit to the Philippines of Harden, who has blossomed from an off-the-bench role player to a true-blue superstar with the Rockets since his first appearance before local fans in 2011.
Unlike in the 2011 All-Star game where he took the backseat to the likes of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, and former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, the bearded star returns in October as the focal point of the offense of a Houston team that is tagged as a sure playoff contender following the arrival of Dwight Howard.
Harden admits the transition from being a support player to Durant and Russell Westbrook at Oklahoma to the No. 1 offensive option with the Rockets had been so fast he had to do things on the fly.
“The transition was definitely fast,” said Harden. “It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to prepare and figured out what to do to be successful. It kinda happened on the fly.
“Every single game, I had to go to it using my basketball instincts and basketball talents. Just watching film, then figuring out different moves that I can and can’t use,” said Harden.
Harden is in Manila for the NBA 3X Philippines, a 3-on-3 tournament for different age groups, and he loves the idea of touching people's lives and helping kids work on their game.
“I’m definitely excited. I’m always excited to teach kids, be around with kids, and (have them) feed off my positive energy towards not only kids but adults as well," said the NBA star.
"Just to have an impact in their lives and making sure that they are in the right path, it’s going to be an unbelievable week,” he added.
When asked what he remembers most about the first time he was in Manila, Harden said: “All the beautiful people, beautiful city. It’s cool all around. The entire experience was great.”