The Houston Rockets reported to training camp this week as the shortest offseason in basketball history is rushing to its conclusion with the December 22 start date just around the corner. James Harden was nowhere to be found. The superstar was seen in videos at rapper Lil Baby's birthday party, a very non-social-distanced event over the weekend, but is definitely not with his team and maybe not even in the Houston area.
New head coach Stephen Silas, brought in after Mike D'Antoni left once his contract expired, answered questions from reporters today about camp and Harden. His stance can be summarized simply: He has no idea where Harden is, why he's not there, and reporters really ought to ask The Beard about that.
Now, there have been no reports suggesting Harden is unhappy since Shams Charania reported several weeks ago that both Harden and Russell Westbrook wanted out of Houston based on concerns about the team's willingness and ability to compete for a championship this upcoming season. No concrete information currently at hand suggests Harden still wants a trade. But this whole situation rather suggests that, no?
If Harden was completely off the grid and missing camp for unknown reasons, it could mean any number of things. But four days ago, Harden was seen at Lil Baby's birthday party, reportedly taking place in Atlanta. He was supposed to be in Houston at the beginning of the previous week, as all players were required to return to their markets at that point in order to deal with any potentially necessary quarantine before training camp started. Then there was this leak that came out shortly after Silas spoke to media.
Whenever reports of that nature start to leak, it usually indicates that the state of the situation is rather poor. If Harden didn't want out, he could have said that or indicated with any of his actions that he wanted to stay. Nothing he has done so far has given us that impression.
Harden is trying to get himself out of Houston. Whether it's because they aren't championship contenders with only John Wall as his running mate, problems with owner Tilman Fertitta, or he just wants a change of scenery, that's the destination this train is very swiftly approaching. It's a tough spot for the Rockets because Harden's contract is immense and his value drops with every passing day. But they appear to be nearing a crossroads where they either let Harden continue with this mini-holdout or trade him for whatever and recoup whatever value they can.
Either way, things are poised to get messy in Houston soon.