HAR­DEN RE­CEIVES BLOCK­BUSTER DEAL

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Jon Krawczynski

LAS VE­GAS» The Beard has the rich­est con­tract in NBA his­tory.

The Hous­ton Rock­ets signed guard James Har­den to a fouryear con­tract ex­ten­sion for about $160 million Satur­day, giv­ing him a to­tal six-year deal with $228 million guar­an­teed. With Har­den un­der con­tract on his ex­ist­ing deal for an­other two sea­sons, the ex­ten­sion will not af­fect Hous­ton’s ag­gres­sive pur­suit of free agents this sum­mer as the Rock­ets try to make a run at the Golden State War­riors.

“Since he ar­rived in Hous­ton, James has ex­hib­ited the in­cred­i­ble work ethic, de­sire to win, and pas­sion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and tal­ented su­per­stars in the his­tory of the game,” Rock­ets owner Les­lie Alexan­der said in a state­ment is­sued by the team. “Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­mit­ment he has shown to our or­ga­ni­za­tion, the city of Hous­ton, and Rock­ets fans all over the world makes him a per­fect leader in our pur­suit of an­other cham­pi­onship.”

Har­den is com­ing off of his finest sea­son. Mov­ing to point guard for new coach Mike D’an­toni, Har­den av­er­aged 29.1 points, an Nba-lead­ing 11.2 as­sists and 8.1 re­bounds and fin­ished sec­ond in the MVP race to for­mer Ok­la­homa City team­mate Rus­sell West­brook.

Har­den’s do-it-all sea­son helped the Rock­ets bounce back from a mas­sively dis­ap­point­ing 2015-16 sea­son that col­lapsed un­der the weight of chem­istry is­sues with the all-star guard and big man Dwight Howard. With Howard gone, the Rock­ets put Har­den at the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing they do on of­fense, and it paid off in a ma­jor way.

Hous­ton went 55-27 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and beat West­brook and the Thun­der in the first round of the West­ern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals.

“Hous­ton is home for me,” Har­den said. “Mr. Alexan­der has shown he is fully com­mit­ted to win­ning and my team­mates and I are go­ing to keep putting in the work to get bet­ter and com­pete for the ti­tle.”

ESPN first re­ported the con­tract de­tails.

Har­den seemed to run out of gas a bit in their semi­fi­nals loss to the San An­to­nio Spurs, and GM Daryl Morey has worked quickly to get him some help this sum­mer.

Morey traded for all-star point guard Chris Paul, a bold move that gives the Rock­ets as tal­ented a back­court as any team in the league. Morey also signed rugged for­ward P.J. Tucker to boost the de­fense and brought Nene back.

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