James Harden motivated for repeat run, in touch with Carmelo Anthony

LAS VEGAS -- A number of high-profile players, including LeBron James andStephen Curry, skipped Team USA minicamp this week.

But the reigning MVP, James Harden, didn't and he looked as motivated as any player Thursday at UNLV's Mendenhall Center.

Harden said he was chasing the feeling he had in the Western Conference finals in Games 6 and 7 when the Houston Rockets were twice ahead at halftime and failed to close it out.

"That was a good feeling, but that feeling that I had in that Western Conference finals, with basically one half to go," Harden said. "I know [Chris Paul]got hurt but that one half, that feeling, I need that feeling back. I'll try to work my butt off, and mentally lock in as much as I can to get back to that feeling."

Harden says he has been in regular contact with Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to sign with the Rockets soon after he is officially waived by the Atlanta Hawks. Like last summer when he successfully recruited Paul to join him in Houston, Harden said that communication among the star players is at the front of his mind during the offseason.

Harden said working in Anthony, who expressed a reluctance to accept a lesser role in Oklahoma City this season before being traded, will be a primary focus of the Rockets during training camp.

"Myself and Chris and our entire coaching staff, we communicate every single day making sure guys are in good places," Harden said. "Obviously there's a lot of egos. There's a lot of talent. Someone has to sacrifice to get where we want to go. Everybody in the world knows what Carmelo brings, how gifted and talented he is. He still has a lot more to go. If he comes come to the Rockets, we'll get the best out of him."

The Rockets lost key role players Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency this summer and currently are at an impasse with restricted free agent center Clint Capela. But Harden said he maintained a positive outlook about the team's title chances.

"We lost a couple key pieces and we still have a couple more key pieces to get," Harden said. "As long as we get our key guys back, re-sign Clint, and the guys we have continue to get better I have all the faith [in the team]."

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