First-year Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas has not been in regular contact with James Harden, saying he is giving the disgruntled face of the franchise “space” as the season nears.
Harden has informed the Rockets that he wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, according to sources, preferring a fresh start while forming a super team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, team sources say that Houston plans to enter the season with Harden on the roster, is confident the Rockets will be competitive and is hopeful that winning would ease the perennial All-Star’s desire to be dealt.
“When stuff like this kind of happens where there’s a little indecision and stuff going on, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space,” Silas said in a virtual media availability Thursday, a day after the Rockets granted Russell Westbrook’s wish to be traded by dealing him to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a protected first-round pick.
“From my perspective, my communication has been, ‘I’m giving you space,’ and that’s kind of where it’s been as far as my communication with him. Guys like that need that. They need to figure it out, and they don’t need someone banging on them all the time to kind of figure out where they’re at and whatnot.”
Harden, the 2017-18 NBA MVP and the league’s scoring leader the past three seasons, is under contract for two more seasons and has a player option for a third year.
Silas, a longtime NBA assistant coach who most recently was the Dallas Mavericks’ offensive coordinator, anticipates the Rockets being a more versatile team than in recent seasons, when their offense was heavily reliant on isolation plays. Houston acquired skilled centers Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins in free agency before trading Westbrook for Wall, who has not played in almost two years due to heel and Achilles tendon injuries.
“Everybody is excited about the possibilities that we have,” Silas said, “us having multiple ways to play on both ends of the floor and having the talent of DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall and Christian Wood to meld with the previous guys that were on the team.
“James is going to have the ball a lot, like he has in the past. Like I said, we’re not going to change things so drastically that the offense isn’t going to be as effective as it has in the past. We’re going to try to change things to make it a little bit more diverse, but he’s going to have the ball quite a bit.”
Silas said he had not had a conversation with Harden since the Westbrook-Wall trade, but the coach was optimistic that Harden would be fully committed to the Rockets once training camp started.
“I’m confident that he’ll be all-in,” Silas said. “That’s where I’m leaving it. As I said, I’m giving him his space to do his thing, but I’m confident that he’ll be here when we get started.”