NBA Season Restart 2019-20

Rockets eager for James Harden, Russell Westbrook to rejoin team

Coach Mike D'Antoni expects Harden to be ready for Houston's first scrimmage next week

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni expressed expectations for a “seamless” return for superstar guard James Harden, once he fulfills the NBA’s protocol after arriving finally Tuesday at the Walt Disney World campus.

Harden arrived five days after the team departed for Orlando, Florida, leaving just Russell Westbrook and forward Luc Mbah a Moute as the only Rockets that haven’t yet joined the team.

“It’s one step [toward] getting complete, and now we’re missing getting Russell [Westbrook] in here and getting Luc Mbah a Moute here,” D’Antoni said. “But James is a big step. It’ll be seamless. We’ve just got to make sure everybody gets in shape, and everybody’s ready to play. But we’ve had some great practices and [we’re] looking forward to getting James in here.”

While Westbrook announced Monday he tested positive for COVID-19, the team never disclosed reasons for the late arrival of Harden and the absence of Mbah a Moute, who was signed on July 7.

Harden entered the NBA’s bubble on Tuesday night, and needs to complete a 36-hour quarantine in his hotel room, in addition to producing two negative tests for coronavirus before he can join the team on the court.

D’Antoni expects Harden to be available for Houston’s first scrimmage against the Toronto Raptors on July 24.

“I think so,” D’Antoni said. “Next week, yeah, without a doubt. James loves to play. So, I would expect after the first couple of days, we’ll get him geared up. Then, starting probably around Sunday he’ll start scrimmaging with the guys, maybe even before. He loves to play. It wouldn’t surprise me if he comes right out of the chute ready to go. But, definitely by next Friday, he’ll be 100%.”

D’Antoni couldn’t nail down a definitive timeline for returns for Westbrook and Mbah a Moute.

D’Antoni said the team will hold off on installation of some plays until Houston hits the court with a full squad.

“Well, last-second, last-shot plays, stuff like that, we’ll have to wait until we have a full complement [of players],” D’Antoni said. “So, that, we’ll put in as Russell gets back here. But the rest of the stuff, we’ll go over it again. Guys could use a second dose of what we’re doing defensively, offensively. We just keep repeating it, and they’ll pick it up.”

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here , find his archive here and follow him on Twitter .

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting