From Michael C. Wright at nba.com:
Rockets coach Stephen Silas pointed out Monday his team has spent 80% of their practices focusing on defense, but 100% of that training camp time has elapsed without star guard James Harden, leading to a murky situation in Houston.
Silas cited the NBA’s COVID-19 protocolsfor Harden’s absence Sunday from the team’s first training camp workout, but on Monday the coach expressed ambiguity regarding the star guard’s status.
“He’s not here, and he has a reason,” Silas said. “But that’s on him to tell whoever what the reason is.”
Silas said “there is no timetable” for Harden’s return, and called his absence “a setback” for a Rockets team working to come together with a new coach and several new players in John Wall, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins. Silas said he wasn’t sure whether Harden had even returned to Houston, where the rest of the team is taking part in training camp workouts.
“You want your best player to be here,” he said.
Wall mentioned on Sunday that he’s talked to Harden since Houston traded for him last week in a deal that sent Russell Westbrook and a future first-round pick to the Washington Wizards, and called their conversation a “great talk”. Houston forward P.J. Tucker, meanwhile, declined Monday to discuss the situation involving his teammate and friend.
“I’m here to talk about P.J. Tucker,” he said.
Under contract for the next two seasons at least with a player option in 2022, Harden reportedly requested a trade earlier this offseason, but he hasn’t addressed the media since September, when the Lakers ousted Houston from the playoffs in five games.
Silas said last week that he hadn’t spoken to Harden since the Rockets traded Westbrook for Wall, and maintained he wanted to give the 2018 Kia MVP “some space,” while expressing confidence the star guard would be “all-in” for the start of training camp.
Harden could be subject to fines for failing to report to training camp, but Silas said that option hasn’t yet been discussed.
“I’ve been in situations before where it was a holdout, and we just kind of handled each individual situation on its own merit and individually,” Silas said. “As far as any sort of punishment, we haven’t even crossed that bridge yet.”
Despite Harden’s absence, excitement and expectations for the upcoming season haven’t been tempered, according to Eric Gordon, who seemed to be careful with his words regarding his teammate.
“The mood right now is everybody’s pretty excited. It’s definitely new,” Gordon said. “In the past, whatever guy that was here, whether you come off the bench or whoever, he had to come in and make a spark because we were in the zone of trying to win a championship. Now, we still have that same mindset. But it’s a change of culture a little bit.”
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