What’s Next For James Harden And The Houston Rockets?

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ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: James Harden and Lil Baby attend Lil Baby's Ice Ball on December 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)

Where in the world is James Harden?! The answer to that question is Las Vegas, or Atlanta, or at the club, or just about anywhere but the Houston Rockets practice facility. The Beard has been absent from the team’s last two practices. Unfortunately, the organization has no timetable for when the former MVP will rejoin the team, if at all. Rumors have been swirling around Harden all offseason, and with his longtime friend Russell Westbrook out the door for John Wall, what does Harden’s future with the Houston Rockets look like?

What’s Next for James Harden and the Houston Rockets?

Harden’s weekend activities

Harden missed the Houston Rockets’ team practice on Sunday. New head coach Stephen Silas chalked up his absence due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. However, as the story unfolded, it became a bit more concerning for the team. Harden was spotted in large crowds this weekend in Atlanta and Las Vegas, and he will likely be punished by the NBA for not abiding by their social distancing guidelines.

When Dennis Rodman up and went to Vegas in 1998 and was not heard from for more than two days, he came back and didn’t miss a step. He handled his similar situation infinitely cooler than Harden is right now. The major difference here is that Harden really may not be coming back.

These leaks came out just days after the NBA announced its new COVID-10 policies and protocols. By protocol, players are forced to quarantine aside from doing essential activities or team meetings and practices. Harden’s activities of late have violated the league’s protocols. However, the league is yet to put out a statement or dole out punishment towards Harden.

With Westbrook Out The Door, Is Harden Next?

Speculation around the Houston Rockets’ organization is that Harden is holding out, which is why he is yet to report. The team traded Harden’s longtime teammate and friend Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall, and also signed Wall’s college teammate DeMarcus Cousins a week ago. A Harden, Wall, and Cousins trio is as good a core to walk in with than most in the league. But will they all take the court for Houston on opening night?

When the trade window opened in November, James Harden was at the forefront of every trade rumor put out on Twitter. It seemed inevitable that he would be moved, citing the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers as the two frontrunners for destinations. However, talks calmed down significantly since then, and it looked like Harden and Westbrook were prepared to run it back with Houston.

However, it was Westbrook who was traded this past week, with the season just two weeks away. There is still plenty of time for Houston to move off from Harden if they wished to. A move is becoming more and more of a possibility. Harden may have shared his thoughts on the recent transactions done by Houston on his Instagram story, leaving a cryptic emoji that suggests things might be a little rocky between the former MVP and Clutch City.

Overall Outlook

The Houston Rockets’ window may very well be closed soon enough. James Harden is a franchise superstar, a top 10 player in the NBA, and a vital player to the Rockets. Teams in the West have gotten stronger this offseason, and the Rockets took a few substantial setbacks. Without him, the Rockets are arguably a lottery-bound team, even with their latest acquisitions. Should Houston look to move the former MVP, they should look to strike sooner than later.

A James Harden trade at this stage in his career would be one of the biggest NBA blockbusters in recent memory. Very little has been clear about the situation as a whole at this point. Only time will tell how much longer Harden is a member of the Rockets. We may not know until a month down the road, or a week, or even tomorrow.

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