James Harden explains why he skipped Rio Olympics
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James Harden explains why he skipped Rio Olympics

James Harden had his eye on the prize this summer. And the prize wasn’t an Olympic gold medal, but an NBA championship for his Houston Rockets.

With the departure of Dwight Howard to the Atlanta Hawks, acquisitions of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, and the signing of head coach Mike D’Antoni, there were a lot of new faces to get used to and a lot of work ahead for James Harden.

While some stars are known to skip on the Team USA to recover from injuries, bond with teammates or just to enjoy their time after a long postseason run, Harden knew he had to stay in Houston in order to pull off a successful 2016-17 season.

“I have made the sacrifice that I want to do whatever it takes to win, so it’s one of the reasons why I didn’t go to the Olympics this summer,” Harden told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. “It was one of the toughest decisions that I’ve ever made in my life. For my legacy here in Houston and in the NBA, I thought it was important.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Harden was painted as a 2014-15 MVP candidate, ultimately falling to Stephen Curry, who now has back-to-back awards in his trophy case.

James Harden’s numbers looked good last season, but the Rockets were shown the door early in the first round of the playoffs after losing 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors.

In order to entice change, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard knew he had to be in the same page with his new coach and teammates.

“Our communication has been strong,” Harden said of his relationship with D’Antoni. “I want to learn. I want to figure it out. Me calling him, texting him, going into his office, that’s happened already several times. My pride is definitely to the side. If I’ve got a problem – if I’ve got a question – I’m going to talk to him about it.”

The seven-year man out of Arizona State is looking to do whatever it takes to catapult his team to a championship, and that is more than just skipping on the chance at a gold medal.

“Obviously you’ve got to be great on the court,” Harden said of his responsibilities this season. “You’ve got to put the work in. You’ve got to make people follow you. Off the court, you’ve got let them know that you’re here and willing to do whatever it takes, whether it’s recruiting players, sacrificing individuals stats or whatever it is.”

“I want to do whatever it takes to win.”

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