Can James Harden get benched for the season over his stats?
The Houston Rockets’ opening game of the NBA season against the Oklahoma City Thunder has been postponed from Wednesday. Several players on the Rockets have positive COVID-19 tests or need to quarantine due to the contract tracing protocols. This also includes star player James Harden, who has now been fined for violating protocols.
Harden has been making headlines lately as he & Houston may be drifting apart from one another. With the NBA’s punishment towards Harden, the Rockets are in another tricky situation with their star shooting guard. Here’s more information on Harden and his season so far with the Rockets.
The Rockets have already been involved in a hefty offseason when they traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a first-round draft pick. According to ESPN, during training camp, Harden indicated to the Rockets that he would be “open to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers or possibly other contenders.”
The Rockets have had trade discussions with the Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets, and 76ers. ESPN reported on Monday that the Miami Heat “moved on and will not pursue the Houston Rockets’ star.”
Part of the reason why some teams are wary about trading for Harden is that he has the chance to opt out of his contract for the 2021-2022 season. Teams want more faith that Harden would stick with them for the long run if they invested in a large trade for a player as valuable as Harden.
Las Vegas during the offseason
During the start of Rockets training camp, Harden was seen on social media partying in Atlanta & Las Vegas maskless. He arrived late to the training camp, which created some controversy on why he was seen partying instead of getting ready for the NBA season with the rest of his team.
Once he arrived at training camp, he gave a press conference on Dec. 16th in which he answered some questions on what exactly he was doing in Las Vegas. Harden said he was “training” and was in Las Vegas & Atlanta to meet up with his “personal trainers.” In terms of trade discussions, Harden said, “Since I’ve been here, there’s nothing that’s being said about it…Right now, I’m just focused on being here.”
According to ESPN, Harden had “outbursts directed at teammates” during some of the practices. Harden’s unhappiness with the Rockets has been a growing story and may continue to develop throughout the season.
Breaking coronavirus protocols
A viral video showed Harden partying maskless in what many perceived to be a strip club. While Harden has denied that he was at a strip club, the NBA has found him in violation of “health and safety protocols.” The league fined him $50,000 and he will forfeit $573,000 for every game missed. Harden shared a post on Instagram about the video.
“One thing after another. I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in a position of success and now it’s a problem,” Harden said in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “Every day it’s something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can’t. The real always end on top.”
While Harden tested negative for coronavirus, the NBA still ruled him out of Wednesday’s game before it was postponed. It’s unclear when Harden will be cleared to play again, but the Rockets may be forced to keep him out until he passes the protocols.
While Harden has made clear to the Rockets his desire for a trade, for now, Harden is staying in Houston. It’s unclear if the Rockets will punish him themselves for breaking protocol. Until then, we’ll see how Harden performs once he begins the regular season.