If you thought the exodus of Daryl Morey, Chris Paul, or Mike D’Antoni would at any point end the never-ending gossip… Think again. If you thought the news cycle would end when Russell Westbrook was traded, think again. This weekend, while NBA teams were reporting for duty, perennial MVP candidate James Harden was notably absent. It bears mentioning that he has, for several seasons now, shown up to training camp on his own schedule. Even as recently as the Orlando Bubble, James has done “James things” to start the training. While there are numerous videos of him working out at the University of Houston recently, the videos coming out from just before camp alarm fans. 

Late last week, Harden was seen at rapper Lil’ Baby’s birthday party. He gave the musician a Prada bag, some cash, and a bunch of honey buns. In the club, which was rented out for the party, there are few (if any) face coverings. Harden’s attendance meant, per NBA protocols, he had to refrain from being around the team for a few days. Harden then decided to spend his days…

Needless to say, his time away from the team, by the same protocols, will be extended. 

Clearly, James Harden is making a concerted effort to not be a part of the current Rockets roster. There is plenty of time for him to get back before the Houston Rockets open up the regular season on December 23rd. But, the time to learn and integrate himself into the new offensive system of Stephen Silas will undoubtedly take some time. 

James Harden’s position, per unnamed sources in The Athletic, claimed he wants to play for a team with a more realistic shot at an NBA title. Harden has two years left on his current contract, thus Houston has said the ball is in their court. They’re refusing to trade him for pennies on the dollar. 

James Harden has been in the top three in MVP voting for five of the last six seasons. It’s hard to imagine just what trade isn’t some amount of coinage on the dollar, even if Houston would rather it be quarters and dimes than pennies. 

Harden has given the majority of his prime NBA basketball playing days to the city of Houston. The partnership launched the former MVP to a Hall of Fame career from his sixth-man role in Oklahoma City. To this point, Harden and the Rockets have felt the pain and heartbreak of the end of the last few seasons together. Each loss has hurt Harden’s legacy as much as it has that of the Rockets, and to this point that brought the fanbase and the star closer. It appears that has reached an even clearer breaking point than before. 

Harden’s mother is his agent (as was said earlier, James Harden keeps his circle very small). His mother had this to say in Instagram comments since the no show:

For many Rockets’ fanatics, it is no longer about if Harden needs to play out his contract in Houston. Tilman Fertitta has successfully torn down the championship contender he purchased. Asking Harden to stand firm on the Titanic would be selfish. But fans would like Harden’s energy and effort while he remains a part of the team, some words from his behalf, and would appreciate even a Marshawn Lynch level of a press conference at this point. 

Tensions continue to rise as the Rockets await their superstar’s return. The city is used to James Harden showing up when he was ready to, as many NBA veterans do. Plenty of vets will miss the first couple of days of camp to keep the mileage off their legs… but this one is getting to be very different. “Houston, we have a problem,” sounds cliche but it’s gotten to the point where desperate times may call for desperate measures.

For more on football, basketball, sneakers, and the Houston Rockets, follow me @painsworth512 for more, and give our podcast “F” In Sports a listen wherever you listen to podcasts!

About Author

Parker Ainsworth

Senior NBA Writer, Co-Host of "F" In Sports and The Midweek Midrange. Parker is a hoops head, "retired" football player, and sneaker aficionado. Austinite born in Houston, located in Dallas after a brief stint in LA... Parker is a well-traveled Texan, teacher, and coach. Feel free to contact Parker- https://linktr.ee/PAinsworth512

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