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James Harden hasn’t arrived at Rockets camp and yet he might still be pulling strings behind the scenes.
New Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t talk a lot about Harden and the rumors that he’s unhappy in Houston on Thursday.
But he was clear about one thing — he expects Harden to be there when the Rockets open camp this weekend.
“I’m confident that he will be all in,” Silas said. “That’s where I’m leaving it. As I said, I’ve given him the space to to do his thing. But I’m confident he’ll be here when we get started.”
For now, Harden has been a no-show, according to the New York Times, even as his Rockets teammates have arrived for individual workouts.
Reports that Harden wants out of Houston have swirled since another early playoff exit by the Rockets when they were eliminated by the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. Harden has reportedly requested a trade to the Nets, though Kevin Durant denied the rumor that the two had conversations to that end.
It was rumored that both Harden and Russell Westbrook wanted to leave the team. Westbrook got his wish Wednesday night when he was shipped to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday that Harden preferred Wall to Westbrook.
Westbrook lasted just one season in Houston playing with Harden and an unconventional small-ball lineup. Now both Westbrook and that small-ball lineup are a thing of the past, with Westbrook heading to the nation’s capital and center DeMarcus Cousins joining the Rockets.
Silas is a longtime NBA assistant in his first job as a head coach after being hired to replace Mike D’Antoni, who told the Rockets he wasn’t returning at the end of the season. Silas said he hasn’t spoken to Harden since the trade and that he’s employed a hands-off approach with the superstar so far.
“When stuff like this kind of happens, where there’s a little indecision and stuff going on, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space,” Silas said. “So from my perspective, my communication has been I’m giving you space. And that’s kind of where it’s been as far as my communication with him. And guys like that need that.”
Silas is excited to add a player of Wall’s caliber to his team, but admitted that he had some mixed emotions when he learned of the trade.
“If it weren’t for Russell Westbrook, I probably wouldn’t have this job,” Silas said. “So the fact that he vouched for me in the interview process was one of the first things that I thought of when the trade was made.”
Then he remembered all his years as an assistant in Charlotte when he had to plan to defend Wall four times a year.
“The second part of it is how dynamic John Wall has been in his career and some of the nightmares that I’ve had trying to defend him and pick and roll and all the pick and roll passes that he’s able to make,” Silas said.
Also on Thursday, Cousins spoke to reporters for the first time since signing with the Rockets earlier in the week. The 30-year-old said he’s healthy and can’t wait to get started after missing all of last season recovering from a knee injury.
“It was a tough task, mentally, physically, but at the same time, I was able to rest my body and it was much-needed rest,” Cousins said. “Coming back off of that, I feel incredible, my body is in a great place, my mind is in a great place and I’m just ready to get back on the floor and play the game that I love.”
He’s also ecstatic about being reunited with Wall, his college teammate at Kentucky. Cousins said he’s known Wall since he was 14 and that the point guard was a groomsman in his wedding.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Cousins said. “It’s something me and him planned and dreamed about for a long time. So I’m pretty sure he’s just grateful for his moment as I am.”
— With AP
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