by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

James Harden’s shocking departure from Oklahoma essentially came down to money.

The Thunder weren’t willing to max him out and incur harsh financial penalties down the line. The Houston Rockets don’t have that problem, and will sign Harden to a long-term deal.

James Harden says he’s ready to take command of the team, and become the Rockets’ star.

Per the Houston Chronicle:

Harden said he fully intends to sign a long-term contract extension with the Rockets. And if there were any doubts, he said he firmly believes he will become the star they need. “To be secure, I feel like I’m in a great position with a great team, young guys who want to work hard,” Harden said. “It will work itself out. I’ll let them figure it out, them and my agent. My focus now is on Houston and how to make them better.” The NBA Sixth Man of the Year last year, more will be expected of Harden with the retooled Rockets than with the championship-contending Thunder. It will be an adjustment, Harden said, but he believed he was ready to take that significant step.

“I am,” Harden said. “It’s going to take some time, obviously not starting (in the past) and not having as much attention on me. It’s going to take some time, but I think I’m ready for it.”The Rockets will offer a max contract, worth either $78.6 million over five years or $60.2 million over four years, a person with knowledge of their plans said. Negotiations cannot begin until the trade is official following the completion of physicals, but the teams are hoping to have the deal completed before the 4 p.m. deadline Monday to set regular-season rosters.

After gutting their roster over the past two seasons to make room for a star (and his massive contract), the Houston Rockets finally landed a marquee player in Harden, who they hope can help get them back to respectability.

The Thunder and Rockets are scheduled to meet just once this season on Nov. 28 in Oklahoma, in what promises to be an emotional affair for both sides.