Houston Rockets star James Harden has been $50,000 for violating the NBA's health and safety protocols, the league announced on Wednesday night. Videos showing Harden at a party without a mask began circulating on social media on Wednesday morning, leading to a league investigation.
Though Harden tested negative for the coronavirus on Monday, Tuesday and again Wednesday, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, he was made unavailable for the Rockets' game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night due to violating the league's protocols. That game was eventually postponed because the Rockets did not have enough eligible players.
At this time, the Rockets are hopeful that Harden will not have to miss any games as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that Houston's star will be required to isolate until Friday and continue to test negative for the coronavirus before being cleared to return to play. As of now, the expectation is that Harden will be ready to play on Saturday against the Trail Blazers. However, Harden will forfeit $573,000 per game for any contests he ends up missing as a result of breaking the league's health and safety guidelines, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
Harden has been making headlines the last couple months for all the wrong reasons. He was seen attending parties in Atlanta and Vegas during the ongoing pandemic while the Rockets were beginning training camp in Houston. The one-time MVP made waves when it was reported that he would like to be traded to a contending team, with the 76ers, Nets, Heat and Bucks all on his list. The relationship between Harden and the Rockets franchise has been on ice the last few months as the team has been going through changes both in the front office and on the court.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni stepped down at the end of the season after the Rockets lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Lakers, and general manager Daryl Morey also decided to leave the team and now serves as president of the Sixers.
Houston also traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall, after Westbrook told the team he wanted out if there weren't changes made to the culture of the organization. There was reportedly also tension between Westbrook and Harden over the preferential treatment Harden received and the lack of accountability the franchise held him to for showing up late to film sessions and team flights for away games.
Over the summer, the perennial All-Star had COVID-19, which required him to be late joining the Rockets in the NBA bubble. Harden already had to quarantine and test negative multiple times over the summer before the restart happened, and when he showed up to training camp late, now there's the possibility of him missing multiple regular-season games depending on how long the league requires him to quarantine.
The league has put in place several health and safety protocols for this season due to the pandemic, which prohibits players from attending any bars, restaurants or clubs. If players fail to comply to those guidelines there's a possibility for them to be suspended or fined.