HOUSTON - Speaking to reporters for the first time this season, James Harden would not address whether or not he has asked the Houston Rockets to trade him.
“Right now I’m just focused on being here,” the former league MVP said when directly asked if he wants the Rockets to trade him.
“I can only focus on right now,” Harden reiterated. “For me, the best James Harden is, you know, making sure I’m in shape.”
Harden says he does not believe questions regarding his future in Houston have been a distraction to his teammates.
“Since I’ve been here, there’s nothing that’s been said about it,” said Harden. “Everybody in the locker room, coaching staff has been focused on ramping up and preparing for the season.”
Harden had yet to practice with his teammates until this week, after reporting to training camp late and needing to go through COVID-19 protocols, which included a league-mandated six consecutive days of negative tests.
While absent from the beginning of training camp, Harden could be seen on social media traveling to Atlanta and Las Vegas, attending crowded clubs with no mask – including an appearance at the birthday party of his friend, rapper Lil’ Baby.
When asked about his excursions to Atlanta and Vegas, Harden said he was “just training,” and that those trips allowed him to work out with his personal trainers.
New Rockets head coach Stephen Silas, who has fielded near-daily questions about Harden and his future with Houston, admitted that there are still questions about the mindset of the all-NBA guard.
“If we exactly knew ... where his head was at, I think it would be good for everybody,” said Silas. “But, you know, we’re dealing in reality, which is, things change on a day-to-day basis, things change on a game-to-game basis.
“As far as his buy-in with me, it seems pretty good ... We’ve talked hoop, and we’ve talked about different situations and that sort of thing.”
James, who has two years (plus a player option for a third year) remaining on his contract, is reportedly seeking a trade out of Houston after an offseason of drastic changes.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni – who was embroiled in a public contract dispute with the Rockets last offseason – announced shortly after the team’s second-round playoff exit that he would not be returning to Houston.
Longtime general manager Daryl Morey, who brought Harden to the Rockets shortly before the 2012-13 regular season began, departed in October and joined the Philadelphia 76ers just two weeks later.
Star point guard Russell Westbrook was then traded by the Rockets to the Wizards, after reports he and Harden no longer wished to play together.
Houston received former All-Star John Wall and a protected first-round pick in the deal.
The Rockets wrap up their preseason schedule Thursday at Toyota Center against the Spurs. The regular season begins December 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.