The James Harden drama in Houston took another interesting step forward on Monday, as Rockets head coach Stephen Silas referred to the superstar’s ongoing absence from training camp as a “setback” for his club.
Despite an ESPN report indicating that Harden told Rockets management he’d be at camp soon, Silas told reporters that there was “no timetable” for the former MVP’s return, as far as he knew, and that he wasn’t sure of the specific reason for the absence.
“I have no clarity about the message,” Silas said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “What the reasoning is, is on him. He’s the one who can explain why or why not he’s here. For me to make inferences and think about the possibilities isn’t real to me. What’s real is he’s not here, and he has a reason, but that’s on him to tell whoever what his reason is.”
Harden reportedly sought a trade during the offseason, so it’s reasonable to assume his delay in arriving to camp stems from his dissatisfaction with his situation, but he has yet to confirm that publicly or privately.
Sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic that Harden hasn’t told team officials that he doesn’t intend to suit up for the Rockets this season, and that the plan is still for him to eventually report and play. According to Amick, Harden’s absence doesn’t seem to “have been packaged with a clear message attached,” creating confusion about what he’s trying to accomplish.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN stated during an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe that the Rockets are “clinging to the hope” they can be a contender this year with Harden leading the way and hope to convince him that winning a championship in Houston is still realistic (link via RealGM). However, MacMahon – who reported last month that the Rockets are “willing to get uncomfortable” with Harden – notes that the star guard appears to be taking that as a challenge.
Here’s more on the Harden situation:
- The Rockets’ stance on what they want in a Harden trade has remained unchanged, according to Amick, who says the team is still seeking an All-Star type player along with several other assets, including future first-round picks. The trade market “wasn’t responding to those demands” as of Monday, says Amick.
- Some people around the NBA believe the league should step in on Harden’s apparent holdout rather than leaving it to the Rockets to escalate the situation with possible discipline, Zach Lowe said on his podcast (per RealGM). “This is going to become the latest referendum on player empowerment and when does it go too far?” Lowe said. “I think it’s a nuanced and fascinating topic. But it’s already spiraling out of control.”
- As Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays, Harden’s mother Monja Willis – who has represented the Rockets star in business dealings – posted a message on Instagram saying that Harden is “doing what is best for his career” and that he’s simply looking “for a chance to get a ring.” While Willis didn’t confirm or deny Harden’s reported desire to be traded to Brooklyn, the implication is that he believes he has a better chance to win a championship with the Nets than the Rockets.
- Speaking of the Nets, head coach Steve Nash and his players were asked during their media session Monday about the Harden situation, but they made it clear they’re trying not to think about the elephant in the room. “For us, for myself, I don’t really have anything to do with James Harden not going to practice. That doesn’t concern me,” Caris LeVert said, according to Lewis. “I’m focused on the team, the Nets, myself, trying to be the best I can be so that we can be better as a team. I don’t really focus on all of that stuff. That really has nothing to do with me.”