At the start of the 2020-21 season, longtime Houston Rockets MVP James Harden expressed his concern regarding the Rockets' excessive failures to reach an NBA championship since he arrived in 2012. He's not necessarily blaming anyone, but Harden felt his time with Houston was over after nearly nine seasons and wanted to look elsewhere to compete for a championship. The ending of this era was inevitable, and it ended badly.

Since his departure, the Rockets have been searching for answers, desperate to figure out their next direction. Three straight trips to the draft lottery combined with three straight worst records found them a never-ending bind.

Fast-forward to the present day and Houston has a new coach and new vets to center the young Rockets core, improving drastically as a team this season. With Alperen Sengun averaging 20.2 points and 9.1 rebounds on 56.7 percent efficiency, he is likely on his way to All-Star status.

What Did James Harden say To Sengun?

James Harden in a Clippers jersey

Sengun appeared on Podcast P with Paul George (presented by Wave Sports + Entertainment) and revealed what Harden said to him at the free throw line during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“When we were playing the Clippers, I think [Kawhi] Leonard was shooting [free throws], and we were on the line with James Harden. He said, ‘I'm so proud of you. Keep it up.' I said, ‘It's really great to hear form you. Thank you, man.' Amazing moment for me,” Sengun shared.

For a 10-time All-Star and MVP to mention that to a future All-Star on his former team elicits a passing of the torch, unofficially cementing a new era for the Rockets.

While Harden's initial tarnished relationship with Houston ended on a sour note, most fans now look at it as water under the bridge. It would mean the world to Rockets fans to finally witness their former star win that elusive championship, given how much he accomplished in a Rockets uniform.

Even after his departure, Harden clearly has respect for the Rockets and wants the best for the young core. That is, unless they are the opposing team in a given matchup.

“That's the beauty of the NBA man,” PG13 added. “We appreciate the young guys coming up.”