by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

It’s a typical response from players going up against their former teams for the first time. Time and again, athletes claim that it’s no different from any other game, but we know better.

James Harden will face the OKC Thunder tonight for the first time since they shockingly traded him, and the Houston Rockets star forward insists that it’s no big deal at all.

Per the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m on the road trying to get a win,” Harden said. “That’s no different than when we played at Memphis or Atlanta or whatever the case may be.” Harden was dealt to the Rockets days before the start of the regular season when he could not come to an agreement on a contract extension with the Thunder. The Rockets signed him to a five-year, $80 million max deal. He said he never expected to leave Oklahoma City after the trip to the NBA Finals last season or through the summer on the Olympic team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but he refuses to consider the game special.

“To be honest, I don’t even know,” he said. “It will be good to see some faces, some old teammates and coaches. They’re all my family. I look forward to every single game I play. It’s just another game.”

Daequan Cook, who was traded to Houston along with Harden and Cole Aldrich, was a bit more candid about the significance of tonight’s sure-to-be-emotional duel in OKC. Cook says James Harden will be in attack mode and looking to send his old squad a message.

Unexpectedly, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks has his own score to settle: “It’s not another game,” Brooks told media in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, playing with the notion of a reunion game for Harden, Kevin Martin and others in the trade. “I want to beat the Rockets. They traded me in the second championship year. It took me five years to get over Rudy Tomjanovich. Now we’re best buddies. But yeah, it’s still personal.”