After reportedly looking for a way out of Houston and skipping the start of Rockets training camp, James Harden finally took questions from the media Wednesday while hardly clearing up what has become a sticky situation.
The eight-time All-Star finally took the court Tuesday night for the first time under new Rockets head coach Stephen Silas. He had 12 points and four assists in 21 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs and said it felt good to be on the court again.
Whether or not he will continue to take the court for the team remains an unanswered question.
“Right now, I’m just focused on being here,” Harden said. “Today was good. Yesterday felt really good being out there for the first time since the bubble. I haven’t really had an opportunity to do a lot of five-on-five work. But for my first time being out there, I felt pretty good.”
As for his whereabouts during his early absence from training camp, Harden offered little details. He went to Las Vegas and posted pictures on social media attending the birthday party of rapper Lil Baby in Atlanta.
“I was just training,” Harden said when asked if he was trying to make a point about being elsewhere at the start of camp.
And why were Atlanta and Las Vegas better locales than Houston?
“Just my personal trainers,” he said.
According to ESPN, Harden’s preferred trade destinations are to the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets not only have a new coach, they traded superstar Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in an intriguing deal that brought back another superstar in guard John Wall.
It seems a long shot that Wall and Harden become the next tag-team duo in Houston, although Harden said Wednesday that he has not talked to new general manager Rafael Stone about the matter.
“Since I’ve been here, there’s nothing that’s been said about it,” said Harden, who did not arrive in Houston until Dec. 8, two days after training camp started. He did not set foot into camp until Monday once he was cleared to practice.
“Everybody in the locker room and the coaching staff has been focused on ramping up and preparing for the season,” Harden said. “So, that’s all that matters.”
It’s just that his trade request might hinder that focus. The Rockets won’t know who they will be this season until they get some type of closure on the subject.
“I can only focus on right now, and for me, the best James Harden is making sure I’m in shape,” Harden said. “Like I said, I hadn’t even had an opportunity to play five-on-five.
“Individual workouts, when you do individual basketball training, is great, but as every NBA player can agree, there’s nothing like five-on-five training, the physicality, making reads and things like that.”
In 11 NBA seasons, Harden has averaged 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 833 career games. He spent his first three seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, after becoming the No. 3 overall selection in the 2009 draft.
Capturing his third straight scoring title, Harden averaged 34.3 points with 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists over 68 games last season.
(Field Level Media)