After missing the first couple Rockets practices, James Harden arrived in Houston Tuesday and underwent COVID-19 testing in accordance with the NBA's protocols. Over the weekend, Harden, who has reportedly requested a trade from Houston, posted pictures of himself partying while away from his team. There were questions about when -- or if -- Harden would report to the Rockets, but they were answered as he reported to the team. Assuming he posts negative COVID-19 test results, Harden will ultimately be able to join his Rockets teammates out on the floor for practice ahead of the team's season-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 23.
Rockets head coach Stephen Silas confirmed Harden's arrival in Houston on Tuesday, but didn't have much information beyond that and is unsure when he can rejoin the team for workouts. "I am aware that he was getting his test today here in Houston," Silas said. "So that leads to the fact that he is here. And that's pretty much all I know right now. It's kind of -- there are some moving parts to it, I assume. But him getting tested in Houston is good for everybody."
Silas added that Harden's arrival to camp -- albeit late -- is a sign of commitment by the Rockets star. "Him being here shows a level of commitment to what we have going and what we have going forward and that's that."
While Harden initially made it clear he wanted to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, he has apparently widened his scope when it comes to potential landing spots, as he reportedly informed the Rockets before the start of training camp that he'd be open to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, or any other contender. Despite Harden's interest in Philadelphia, no talks between the Sixers and Rockets have materialized.
Even if Harden doesn't want to be in Houston anymore, the decision is pretty much out of his hands at this point as he still has two years remaining on his current contract. At the very least, Harden is reportedly expected to begin the season as a member of the Rockets. Houston's front office is clearly hopeful that the addition of John Wall will be enough to entice Harden to want to remain with the Rockets, and Silas is preparing for Harden to play for them.
"We're doing things a little bit differently but he's an elite player. Elite players have a way of learning fast and fitting in and making everybody else better," Silas said. "So there will be some sort of learning curve when it comes to how we do things on the floor differently than how he's done it in the past, but all the area players that I've been around -- whether it's Steph [Curry] or Luka [Doncic] or LeBron [James] -- they pick that stuff up pretty quickly."
Given the years remaining on Harden's current contract, there's no reason for the Rockets to rush into a deal. In addition to trading for Wall, the Rockets also added a couple of talented big men in DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood over the offseason, and on paper they project as a formidable squad. If things click, Houston could still be a team capable of making noise in the highly competitive Western Conference, and Harden might change his stance about being traded. This is obviously the best-case scenario for Houston, and it's far from a guarantee. If things go south, though, the Rockets could still opt to trade Harden prior to the trade deadline, or even next offseason, and still likely receive an attractive return package.