On the second night of the NBA’s careful re-opening, there are COVID-19 troubles brewing in Houston. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, several Houston Rockets players are projected to miss tonight’s game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Several Houston Rockets, including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and possibly more, are expected to miss tonight's season opener vs. OKC due to coronavirus contact tracing, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 23, 2020
In light of James Harden’s recent appearances at nightclubs, this isn’t surprising news. The Houston Rockets’ star, currently the focal point of a potential blockbuster trade, started the offseason by not showing up to team activities and barely communicating with the new head coach Paul Silas.
For the most recent trip to a nightclub, Harden appeared at what he claims to be a friend’s birthday party, albeit while wearing no mask and in a crowded club. The NBA is investigating the matter further per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Source: Rockets are working with NBA office to review video of James Harden at a strip club. If the video circulating on social media is verified to be recent, it is a violation of league's COVID protocols, which would put Harden's availability for tonight's opener in jeopardy.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 23, 2020
Harden, in response to the aforementioned news, had this to say on social media:
James Harden speaks on the latest rumours going around
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) December 23, 2020
The NBA has more than enough evidence to punish Harden, therefore a decision seems imminent. Meanwhile, the difficulties of trading the disgruntled superstar intensify with each infraction of COVID19 protocols. However, Sam Amick of The Atheltic says that the contact tracing efforts are not centralized from Harden’s actions.
A clarification, since there's A LOT happening in Houston right now…
A source tells @TheAthletic that the contact tracing which is expected to lead to several players not being available tonight against OKC is not tied to James Harden.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) December 23, 2020
It’s possible the Rockets’ starting lineup could miss the season opener going by Charania’s report. With no bubble for protection, the players are vulnerable to exposure to the virus.
With no fans in the stands, the NBA’s focus on safety procedures is the number-one priority, expect a decision soon.