Rockets star James Harden, at the center of trade-demand reports as the NBA pre-season heats up, said Wednesday that “right now” he’s focused on prepping for the upcoming campaign in Houston.
Harden, who arrived late to Rockets pre-season training camp, spoke to reporters on Wednesday, a day after scoring 12 points with four assists in his pre-season debut — Houston’s 112-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
“Right now, I’m focused on being here,” said Harden, who fielded multiple questions about his reported trade demand.
“Today was good, yesterday felt really good being out there for the first time since the bubble.
“I hadn’t really had an opportunity to do a lot of five-on-five work, but for my first time being out there, I think I felt pretty good,” added the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
As the Rockets got their training camp underway, Harden’s absence was all the more obvious as he posted pictures to his Instagram account showing him celebrating rapper Lil Baby’s birthday in Atlanta.
Social media posts also showed him out and about in Las Vegas.
Harden, the NBA’s top scorer the past three seasons, said that throughout that time he was working out with his personal trainer and that his emphasis prior to the season “is making sure I’m in shape.”
He had praise for new Rockets coach Stephen Silas and his handling of the numerous changes in Houston since the end of the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 season.
Since the Rockets fell in the Western Conference semi-finals to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, the team has parted ways with coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey and traded disgruntled point guard Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards.
“There’s a lot of changes,” Harden said. “Obviously, the entire coaching staff, some of the front office, a lot of the players. This is where we are. Coach (Silas) has done an unbelievable job of communicating with the guys and just putting the structure in and getting things going.”
But Harden’s comments are unlikely to quell speculation that he wants out of Houston and has requested a trade to a club he deems acceptable, with the Brooklyn Nets reportedly at the top of his short list.