James Harden had surely heard that an All-Star spot would be coming his way, but he'd heard he had a chance before, never got one, and did not want to think about it now.
He was playing at an MVP level for a while, and even as the Rockets tailed off, he continued to roll with few rough spots. Coach Kevin McHale said it would be "a travesty" if he did not make the All-Star team. Rockets veteran Carlos Delfino said selecting Harden was "a no-brainer." Yet Harden would not discuss it and would rarely consider it.
So when he saw his name in the crawl across the television screen on Thursday as one of seven players chosen by coaches to be the Western Conference reserves, Harden wasn't surprised but somehow still seemed stunned.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Harden said. "It hasn't hit me yet. I'm sure when that weekend comes and I put on that All-Star jersey, it will hit me.
"I didn't really want to think about it. I wanted to keep my mind off it. Once I saw it, reading my name across the board, I kind of had a sigh of relief."
When he pictured himself wearing the West's red uniform with the shooting star and playing on his Toyota Center home floor, it all seemed to fit, as if the trade to the Rockets in the season the game would be held in Houston conspired with his new leading-man role to make his place as a star official.
"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," Harden said. "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 as All-Star reserve confirms elite status
Houston Chronicle | Jan 25