Houston Rockets’ star-player James Harden was absent from his first training session ahead of the new NBA season due to breaching COVID-19 protocols, and it looks like the eight-time NBA All-Star is trying to force a move out of the franchise.
Harden was pictured celebrating rapper Lil Baby’s 26th Birthday in a Gentlemen’s club the night before his scheduled first practice of the season. This was a clear violation of the NBA COVID-19 protocols which bans players from attending indoor gatherings of 15 or more people.
In the early hours of the morning prior to Harden’s no-show, the Rockets’ Guard posted a cryptic message on his Instagram story.
Newly appointed Rockets’ Head Coach Stephen Silas was expecting Harden to attend an individual training session on Sunday, however Harden never appeared.
Speaking on Harden’s absence, Silas said: “I would just say I want him here, and i want him to be a big part of what we are doing here. I’m excited to coach him and have him be a part of what we just had out there with a good practice, with a bunch of guys working hard.” Silas was appointed Rockets’ Head Coach after Daryl Morey left his long term role with the franchise.
Since the Rockets’ were knocked out the playoffs Harden’s future has been in doubt. The exit Morey and the recent departure of fellow star player Russell Westbrook has unsettled the Rockets’ camp and not least of all Harden who has made it clear to the Rockets’ hierarchy he wishes to leave.
Westbrook was traded to the Rockets’ in 2019 from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the hope that by adding another superstar to the roster Harden would be happy to stay at Houston. With the Rockets’ trading Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in a move that sees John Wall move the other way it seems Harden’s desire to leave the franchise is stronger than ever.
It has been widely reported that Harden wishes to rejoin former Oklahoma teammate Kevin Durant at the Brooklyn Nets. With the Nets already having Durant and fellow NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving on the roster it’s unclear whether the Nets have the resources to accommodate another superstar on the payroll.
In the summer of 2017 Harden chose to sign a four-year contract extension with the Houston Rockets, the deal resulting in a guaranteed $228 million over six years was, at the time, the richest contract in NBA history. The crucial part of this extension being Harden is tied into his contract until 2023.
With the beginning of the NBA season on December 22nd Houston are reluctant to let their star player leave, but with Harden taking such a stance against his franchise this sage looks far from over, and unfortunately for Rockets’ fans could run long into the season.