James Harden's scoring responsibilities have lightened since joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets a month ago, and it's a change the guard says he welcomes after years of lighting up the scoreboard with the Houston Rockets.
Harden fired back at critics who doubted he'd thrive in a backseat role as a playmaker in Brooklyn, adding he found it difficult to shoulder the load for over eight seasons with the Rockets.
"There's always going to be some kind of negative perception on James. That's when you go out there and continue to prove people wrong. The situation that I was in with Houston - consistently, every single night having to get 40 points to give ourselves a chance to win for a long extent of years - was draining," he told ESPN's Rachel Nichols.
"Just to be able to have a skillset of guys that you can be a playmaker and you can get guys involved and not having (to) necessarily worry about scoring each possession, it's a little bit relieving for me."
Harden led the league in scoring in each of the last three seasons, averaging 30.4, 36.1, and 34.3 points during that span.
He's putting up just 23.3 points per game in 13 contests with the Nets. That's his lowest output since his final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder when he won Sixth Man of the Year. He also ranks first in the NBA with 11 assists per game this season, with Durant and Irving leading Brooklyn's scoring.
Harden reiterated he wasn't trying to be disrespectful when he requested a trade from Houston but regrets the dramatic saga that unfolded afterward. He thanked Rockets management for sending him to the Nets, where he expects to compete for his first championship.
"I feel like the front office knew where I stood and what I wanted," Harden said. "Apologize for how it went down, but I guess I had to do what I had to do in order to get to where I wanted to go.
"Credit to Houston. They didn't necessarily have to trade me to Brooklyn, they could have traded me anywhere, but those are some stand-up guys over there. It ended up the right away, I just didn't like how that month or two played out."