Houston Rockets superstar James Harden made his preseason debut Tuesday night but has yet to speak to the media since requesting a trade and briefly holding out of training camp.
Harden, who was cleared to practice Monday, is in violation of the NBA’s media access rules by declining to make himself available to reporters after Houston’s 112-98 victory against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center.
Harden played 21 minutes in the win, recording 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers.
“He was good,” first-year Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “I mean, he’s obviously a great player and can do so many things on the floor, on and off the ball. Defensively, he has great hands and makes plays and is smart. So to have him out there was great.”
Harden missed the Rockets’ first two preseason games because of COVID-19 protocols because he opted to report late to training camp, instead socializing without a mask in Atlanta and Las Vegas. The NBA required Harden to test negative for the coronavirus on six consecutive days before he was cleared to practice with the team.
Harden has avoided answering media questions about his desire to be traded, and it’s a subject teammates say they don’t bring up with the Rockets’ longtime face of the franchise.
“At the end of the day, he’s going to do what’s best for him and the organization is going to do what’s best for them also,” said point guard John Wall (15 points, three assists), who expressed excitement about pairing with Harden after arriving in a trade for Russell Westbrook two weeks ago. “The most important thing is when we step on that floor, we step into practice, we’re focusing ourselves on basketball.
“I don’t try to ask him about that because that’s his personal business. All I worry about is what we can do to make this Rockets team the best that we can be while everybody is here and move forward with that.”
Silas, who had not had an extended conversation with Harden until Monday, said he wasn’t sure how close Harden is to being in his typical form.
“I don’t know how close he is,” Silas said. “I haven’t been around him enough to know the answer.”