»We felt it was best for James and best for the group for him not to come to practice,» first-year coach Stephen Silas said.
The disgruntled superstar had remained quiet through months of speculation that he is unhappy in Houston. Numerous reports have indicated he’s looking to be shipped to Brooklyn to play with former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, and other reports surfaced Wednesday that Philadelphia, where former Houston GM Daryl Morey now works, is also involved in trade talks.
Harden finally voiced his frustration on Tuesday night after the second straight blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
»We’re just not good enough … I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can,» Harden said after the game. »I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.»
Silas called the drama surrounding Harden an »all-around messed up situation.» He was then asked what he thought about Harden saying the Rockets are »just not good enough.»
»That’s hard to hear, especially when you don’t believe it and you know it not to be true,» said Silas, who noted he didn’t sleep at all on Tuesday night.
Silas said he spoke to Harden on Wednesday but declined to provide details.
The Rockets begin a three-game road trip on Thursday night with the first of two straight games against San Antonio. Silas said Harden’s status for the trip remained up in the air on Wednesday.
»We’re still kind of communicating on that and trying to figure out what that looks like,» he said. »But all parties have to be kind of on the same page when it comes to when it comes to that one. So, I don’t have a good answer for you on that one, hopefully within the next little while I’ll have a better answer for you.»
Th Rockets are just 3-6 so far this season and only Minnesota has a worse record in the Western Conference. The team is clearly in disarray and new arrival John Wall called the situation »rocky.»
»There has to be some sort of resolution, whether it’s a complete buy-in at some level or some other way to kind of get it taken care of,» Silas said. »So, yeah, it’s not it’s not an easy situation by any stretch of the imagination. But the team atmosphere… the good of the team, I say everybody needs to be pointed in the same direction and that’s what’s best.»
Harden won each of the last three scoring titles by notable margins – 2.3 points over Anthony Davis in 2017-18, 8.1 points over Paul George in 2018-19 and 3.8 points over Bradley Beal last season. His 24.8-point average so far this season ranked 18th in the NBA, still putting him among the leaders but obviously well off his usual pace.
He’s averaged at least 25 points per game in each of his eight full seasons with the Rockets, but he has never been able to get the team, which hasn’t won a title since winning two straight in 1994-95, past the Western Conference finals.
Harden reported late for camp. He also was fined $50,000 earlier this season for conduct detrimental to the league related to him not following the health and safety protocols put into place by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association for navigating a season during the pandemic.
Harden’s teammates were left to prepare for the Spurs and answer questions about his disparaging comments.
»It’s a little disappointing,» forward Christian Wood said. »It hurts the team chemistry a little bit.»
Veteran DeMarcus Cousins, who is in his first year in Houston after signing as a free agent, was far more direct.
»The disrespect started way before any interview,» Cousins said. »Just the approach to training camp showing up the way he did, the antics off the court. I mean, disrespect started way before. So this isn’t something that all of a sudden happened last night.»
Cousins scoffed at the notion that he was betrayed by Harden wanting out and said his interest was in playing with Wall, a close friend and college teammate. Asked if Harden can ever play for the Rockets again after what he said, the big man wasn’t sure.
»I don’t know,» Cousins said. »Quite honestly, I don’t care.»
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