Talk about a great first impression.
James Harden showed why he is worth the money the Houston Rockets were willing to dish out in a season-opening win at Detroit, and will aim for an encore performance Friday against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
Acquired in a deal from the Oklahoma City Thunder that saw Kevin Martin head to the defending Western Conference champions, Harden was in the starting lineup Wednesday and poured in 37 points on 14-of-25 shooting and handed out 12 assists. Harden proved he can start and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year played almost 45 minutes (44:04).
"With all the craziness that's happened in the past week, I just wanted to get out there and play basketball," Harden said after his first game inking a five-year deal worth $80 million. "I think I did a good job of incorporating my teammates ... and I think we're going to grow as a team."
Jeremy Lin had 12 points and eight assists in his Houston debut, while Carlos Delfino added 15 points and seven boards off the bench for the Rockets, who overcame an 83-72 deficit with a 25-6 run and are opening the season with back-to-back road games at Detroit and Atlanta.
Patrick Paterson did not play due to a left quad strain and is day-to-day.
The last time Houston started 2-0 was back in 2008-09, when it won three in a row to begin the season.
Atlanta will kick off its season and made the playoffs for a fifth consecutive campaign in 2011-12.
The Hawks will have a new look for the new year, as Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams were dealt away in separate deals. Newcomers Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson will get a fresh start for Atlanta, which also has center Al Horford back after he missed most of last season with a pectoral injury.
"When you look at us on paper, everybody says we're a team that has some good players, can make shots, will be able to get up and down the floor, will be able to score," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "But will we be able to defend? That will be the big question."
Isn't that the question for every team? Either way, there's new blood in the Hawks' system and the team hasn't lost a season opener since 2006-07. In fact, the Hawks have won their last six home openers.
Josh Smith finished tied with Johnson for the team lead in points scored with 18.8 PPG and has a lot on his young shoulders. Smith, of course, is entering the final season of his contract.
The Hawks lost their only meeting with Houston last season and are winless in the previous three encounters.