James Harden Starts NBA Season Focused on Himself, Not the Houston Rockets

Harden showed up late to training camp and has looked out of shape and out of sync

James Harden Starts NBA Season Focused on Himself, Not Rockets
James Harden of the Rockets controls the ball against the Spurs.
Getty Images

With the NBA season set to tip-off tonight with the Warriors taking on the Nets in Brooklyn and the Lakers facing off against the Clippers in Los Angeles, basketball is back in the national spotlight.

And, though he isn’t set to play until tomorrow when Houston is scheduled to open their season at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that spotlight should not be focused on any other player more than it is on All-Star Rockets guard James Harden — at least that’s what he sounds like.

The subject of trade rumors for much of the shortened NBA offseason, Harden showed up late to training camp and looked out of shape and out of sync with his teammates, including new backcourt mate John Wall.

When questioned about the situation yesterday, Harden wasn’t talkative.

One subject the former MVP was willing to discuss? Himself. “My expectation never changes — individually be the best basketball player in the world,” Harden said on Monday.

Being the best basketball player in the world apparently involves throwing a basketball at rookie teammate Jae’Sean Tate, an incident that occurred after the two had a heated exchange during Monday’s practice, according to The Athletic. Possibly an indication of where Harden’s game is at right now, the ball did not hit Tate.

With three seasons left on his deal (including a player option in 2022), Harden can throw as many balls at teammates as he wants, but does not have quite enough leverage to make the Rockets trade him on the cheap.

The team has reportedly engaged in trade talks with teams including the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks regarding the 31-year-old star, but Houston is not going to accept pennies on the dollar for their franchise player.

Harden, who averaged 16 points and 6.5 assists in 24.2 minutes a night in two preseason games for Houston, would be wise to realize that and shift his focus to the team, not himself.

To his credit, Harden has not indicated he will sit out any games and has committed to playing through the situation as it plays out. That’s a good thing because the more he produces on the floor, the easier it will be for Houston to get fair value in a trade for the three-time scoring champ and fulfill his wish to be shipped out of town.

And, who knows? Maybe playing with Wall and new teammates like DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood will be enough to convince Harden that staying with the Rockets is a solution instead of a problem. Lord knows, Houston has had plenty of those …

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