Harden with Rockets as season nears, but future uncertain

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December 15, 2020 10:40 PM

James Harden remains a Houston Rocket for now. The superstar reported late for camp but is back with the team and new coach Stephen Silas expects him to be “all in” this season despite persistent rumors he wants to be traded.

Silas said he hasn’t spoken to Harden about his future but they had a good talk about on-the-court topics this week.

“So as far as his commitment to what we’re doing, basketball-wise, he was right there,” Silas said. “As far as the rumors and all the other stuff I can’t speak to (that) ... that’s another question that you’ll have to have for him.”

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Harden has remained quiet through months of speculation that he is unhappy in Houston. Numerous reports have indicated that he’s looking to be shipped to Brooklyn to play with former Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, who left and became an NBA champion with Golden State. For all his accomplishments, Harden is still seeking an NBA title.

While the Rockets could eventually try to deal Harden, they would expect a hefty return for the eight-time All-Star. They are intent on contending now with Harden as the team’s centerpiece and likely won’t be swayed by any package that’s heavy on draft picks or young talent and will seek a current star in return.

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They already made one huge move this offseason when they sent Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall and a future first-round draft pick after Westbrook’s first season in Houston didn’t live up to the hype. The Rockets had hoped adding Westbrook, the 2017 MVP, would be what they needed to win their first title since back-to-back championships in 1994-95. Instead, they were ousted by the eventual champion Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

Now their future is murky at best with questions about what version of Harden they’ll get this year if he isn’t traded. Wall, like Silas, is hoping for the best and the dynamic guard is looking forward to playing with the Beard after spending his entire career with the Wizards.

“I think me and James can be a heck of a combination,” Wall said. “I just hope we get the opportunity to get into the regular season and see how it goes.”

SILAS STEPS IN

Silas is in his first year as a head coach after working as an NBA assistant for 20 years. The Rockets hired him after Mike D’Antoni decided not to return when his contract expired.

The 47-year-old Silas worked as an assistant in Charlotte, Cleveland, Washington, Golden State and spent the last three seasons in Dallas. But he’s been around the NBA for his entire life as the son of former player and coach Paul Silas.

Despite all the drama surrounding the team, Silas is focused on helping the Rockets contend for a title.

“It’s hard to get to the playoffs and then once you’re in the playoffs, it’s hard to make that next step to be a second-round team and then it’s hard to make that next step to a championship team,” Silas said. “And that’s what I’m here to do and that’s what I’m prepared to do. But ... it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of preparation, and we’re working on it.”

NO MORE SMALL BALL

The Rockets went with an unorthodox small-ball lineup for the second half of last season after trading center Clint Capela to Atlanta in February. This year they’ll go back to a more traditional lineup after adding 6-foot-10 players DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood.

Wood has bounced around five teams in just four years in the league, but Houston is looking for him to be a big contributor this season after appearing in a career-high 62 games last season for Detroit where he averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds.

FEELING GOOD

Cousins and Wall are healthy after both players missed all last season with injuries and also missed significant time hurt the year before. Wall sat out last year recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and Cousins was sidelined by a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“The task was tough, but I think I’m built for it,” Cousins said. “I took it in stride and I just fought through. I learned a lot about myself and just life in general.”

The pair are also excited to be reunited after starring together at Kentucky.

“We will both challenge each other,” Wall said. “While we’re here and while we’re teammates, we’re going to challenge each other to get the best out of each other so we can have a heck of a season.”