Thunder guard James Harden has been cleared to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals Saturday night against Dallas, six days after suffering a concussion from a vicious elbow delivered by the Lakers' Metta World Peace (Ron Artest). Harden talked to The Oklahoman on Thursday:
Q: How are you feeling?
A: “I'm doing good. Had a couple of days of working out, getting my groove back. Felt pretty good.”
What's this week been like?
“It's been kind of crazy. I've been just trying to relax and just doing what I have to do in order to get back on the court. Coaches, trainers, teammates have done a great job of keeping it within us and really focusing on what we have to do going into the playoffs.”
How bad were you hurt?
“Obviously, it hurt. Like I said, trainers did a good job of getting me back on the court as soon as possible.”
Has Artest apologized?
“I think he apologized in an interview. I don't know.”
How much do you remember of the incident?
“I remember the whole thing. I was shocked at first. Just try to get up and come back in the game. Obviously we've got the best training staff in the NBA, so they did a great job of not allowing that to happen.”
What was the biggest thing to overcome? Headaches?
“Little headaches. Like I said, the rest and being with those guys (trainers) in the back helped a lot.”
Do you think the elbow was intentional?
“I don't know.”
Was Artest's seven-game suspension fair?
“I can't comment on that. That's the NBA's job. I'm a basketball player.”
Are you looking forward to being known for making plays again, instead of being the victim of an elbow?
“I'm happy to be back on the court, helping my team win basketball games, coming off the bench, being that guy to go to. Definitely something to look forward to, especially going from last year in the playoffs, playing against Dallas, looking at some of the success we had against them.”
Are you fired up to see Dallas again, since the Mavs eliminated the Thunder last May?
“We have a bad taste in our mouth. Dallas is a great team. They have one of the best players to ever play the game in Dirk (Nowitzki). It's going to be a fun series. Rematch of the Western Conference Finals.”
How would you describe the support you received since the elbow?
“Amazing. I didn't know I had that many fans. Thunder fans, just all over Twitter. People texting me. Teammates. Shows the love I have. I appreciate everybody for it.”
How easy has it been getting back in the flow?
“Today was a good day of practice. We got to go over Dallas, watched a little bit of film. And just get after it a little bit. Like I said, we hadn't time to practice in awhile. Good to get back on the court and compete against each other and make each other better.”