James Harden has been in the news again for the wrong reasons after the NBA cancelled the Houston Rockets’ season opener against Oklahoma City Thunder and fined the player $50,000 following a rash of coronavirus cases.
Harden was fined for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols, while three of his team-mates tested positive for the virus. Those positive tests meant that the team was left without the mandatory eight available players for a game. Four other players were compelled to quarantine themselves due to contact tracing.
In the same press release that confirmed the cancellation, it was confirmed that Harden had been fined for appearing maskless at a crowded party. Video of the star, who has been involved in a long-running trade saga that has seen him linked with a move away from Houston to a clutch of possible teams, surfaced on social media.
Harden played at Portland
NBA COVID-19 protocols prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments. Harden did play when the Rockets actually began their season on Saturday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Rockets lost the game 126-128 at the Moda Center in Portland, though Harden did manage to contribute 44 points in his 43 minutes of game time. He also chipped in with four rebounds and 17 assists (a career high). That performance highlighted Harden’s value to Houston, as they were also without three of their best players in the shape of Eric Gordon, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins.
The saga around Harden’s future has dragged on for months now. He was most recently linked with a move to Boston, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealing that the Celtics, along with the Brooklyn Nets, have been talking to the player recently.
The respected reporter, whose reports are usually taken as gospel truth by basketball fans, also revealed that any deal for Harden may now become complicated and involve three, possibly even four teams. The Rockets are apparently scouring the NBA for a great young player that they can include in any deal for Harden.
The Mayor wants Harden at Houston
Even Houston mayor Sylvester Turner has offered his opinions on the Harden situation. Turner wants the Rockets and the player to sort things out, as he “loves” Harden being a Houston player.
Turner said: "I love me some James Harden. He’s an incredible player, there’s no question about that. But this is just tough when you’ve got one foot in and one foot out and then you’ve gotta help to elevate all of the players around you. This is a team sport, it’s not an individual sport. He played an incredible game [Saturday night]. Again we come so close and yet we fall short, especially in crunch time, when you need everybody to step up."
One thing is clear: Harden is not happy at Houston and his recent breach of protocols to go and party shows that. All Rockets fans will be hoping for a resolution to the situation as soon as possible.