After previously requesting a trade to the Nets, three-time NBA scoring champ James Harden finally reported to Rockets training camp on Tuesday. He did so amid reports he now also would accept a trade to the 76ers or any NBA title contender that has the assets to acquire him.
But for the time being, Harden is in Houston and has begun the process of re-integrating with his franchise and new coach Stephen Silas, who conceded in a video news conference on Tuesday that he still had not communicated directly with Harden.
Asked for details of the timetable regarding Harden’s return, Silas said, "I am aware that he was getting his (COVID-19) test here today in Houston, so, that leads to the fact that he is here. That’s pretty much all I know right now. There’s some moving parts to it, but him getting tested in Houston is good for everybody."
According to NBA pandemic protocols, Harden must test negative three consecutive days before he can join group practices. Therefore, he is unlikely to accompany the Rockets to Chicago for their preseason opener on Friday. But Silas was sketchy on those details.
"I’m not exactly sure where it fits in and when he can join the team," Silas said. "We’re doing this day-by-day, and just to have him in the building is good."
It became clear there has been no significant progress in trade talks between the Rockets and Nets, who Harden requested to join as a third star alongside former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving. ESPN reported on Tuesday that Harden expanded his options to include the 76ers, who now are being run by Daryl Morey, who recently left the Rockets after 13 seasons as general manager and are being coached by former Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
ESPN reported there have been no substantial talks between the 76ers and Rockets. When Rivers was asked about Harden’s availability, Rivers said, "You’re not hearing that from us. We like our team. That team I just watched out there (in practice) is special. Those rumors aren’t coming from us."
Silas had a similar response regarding reports Harden will consider teams besides the Nets. "I don’t have anything to do with that," Silas said. "Him being here shows a level of commitment to what we have going forward. And that’s that."
The Rockets have indicated they won’t be pushed into a Harden trade and would require, if not a superstar in return, a package that would include a top young star, young complementary players and multiple first-round draft picks. But their real goal is to keep Harden in the fold.
Guard John Wall, who recently was acquired in a trade for Russell Westbrook said Harden has indicated to him that he is willing to play together with the Rockets. On Monday, Silas said Harden was one of the players he spoke with who recommended his hiring as head coach.
Asked if there has been an erosion of trust with Harden, Silas said, "Once the relationship begins, we’ll begin that process of trust. Obviously, it wasn’t a great start to it, but that’s the NBA. There’s going to be issues, and there’s going to be things that you have to work through as a group. That’s what we’re going to do.
"The good thing that I have here and one of the reasons that I was so excited to get this job is that we’re not in a rebuilding situation. (We’re) adding John Wall, adding (DeMarcus) Cousins, adding (Christian) Wood and now adding James to that is still very exciting. As far as the trust is concerned, I need to build the trust with everybody on the team. We’ll build that when he gets here."