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Valuable 6th man Harden plans to stay with Rockets

| Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, 7:10 p.m.
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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 16: James Harden #13 and Eric Maynor #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder share a laugh on the sideline as their teammates play the Charlotte Bobcats during a pre-season game on October 16, 2012 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

HOUSTON — James Harden plans to sign a long-term extension with the Houston Rockets before the regular season begins.

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year joined his new team Sunday after he was traded from Oklahoma City late Saturday. The Thunder acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick in the surprising deal. Oklahoma City also sent center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston.

“It happened so fast. It happened very fast,” Harden said. “But this is the position I'm in in now. Just have to make the best out of it. I'm with Houston now. I just have to come in here and play hard and win games.”

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Houston was able to offer Harden a contract that Oklahoma City could not.

“Quite honestly, the value of the trade was greater based on the fact that the Rockets could offer him the contract that he was seeking,” Presti said. “By doing it when we did it, it allowed the Rockets to secure — or I believe it will allow the Rockets to secure him, and James will get the contract that he was seeking. And because of that, we were able to capitalize on the trade and probably get a little bit more than we would have if we would have waited.”

The Rockets nabbed Harden on the night before holding a public practice at Toyota Center. An hour before the practice started, fans peered into the shaded, street-level glass windows to catch a glimpse of the new arrival on the Rockets' practice court.

The 23-year-old Harden said he'll have to adjust to a rebuilding team after playing for a contender in Oklahoma City.

The acquisition of Harden completes an offseason overhaul for the Rockets, who have missed the playoffs the past three seasons. Houston cut or traded every veteran player, including point guard Kyle Lowry, backup Goran Dragic, shooting guard Courtney Lee and popular forward Luis Scola.

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