"We are very excited with tonight's trade," Alexander said in a team press release. "While I never like having to send out quality players like Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, this trade gives us a chance to make an immediate impact on the future of our franchise moving forward. James Harden was part of Team USA's gold medal team at the London Olympics and is one of the most skilled shooting guards in the NBA. James, along with the mix of young players we already have in place, such as Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik, give us a very solid group of young, talented players who will form the core of our team."
Harden, who will be a restricted free agent in 2013, had spent the first three seasons of his career with the Thunder. In 2011-12, Harden averaged 16.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game off the bench, averaging 16.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in the postseason. The Thunder attempted to sign Harden to a four-year, $54 million contract extension that was turned down; the Rockets are expected to sign Harden to a four-year, $60 million contract.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey told the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigan that Harden is the "foundational" player the franchise has been looking for during the past few seasons. "He makes us better from day one and will play a big part in helping get us back to a championship level," Morey said.
The Rockets finished the 2011-12 season with a record of 34-32, missing the postseason for the third straight year. Houston begins the season on Wednesday, Oct. 31 against the Detroit Pistons.