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James Harden set to play Tuesday after returning to practice

The former Kia MVP joined Houston on Monday after clearing COVID protocols.

Rockets guard James Harden is with the team and ready to play, according to coach Stephen Silas.

Cleared to return per the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, Houston Rockets star James Harden participated Monday in the team’s practice and will make his preseason debut Tuesday when the club hosts the San Antonio Spurs (8 ET, NBA League Pass), according to coach Stephen Silas.

Harden and P.J. Tucker arrived at Rockets training camp late and had to advance through the league’s coronavirus testing protocols before they were cleared to return to the team.

“They were both at practice today and participated and were very good,” Silas said. “It was good to have them there, good to have their spirit there, good to have their veteran savvy, their smarts, their ability in so many different things that it was good to have. They were both here.”

Harden reportedly requested a trade recently, while Tucker has sought a contract extension, according to reports, as the 35-year-old enters the final year of a four-year contract signed during the 2017-18 season.

Silas said he spoke briefly with Harden on Monday and declined to answer whether the star guard was fully committed to the Rockets moving forward.

“We had a good conversation, and I’m just gonna leave it at that,” Silas said. “You can ask him about his commitment and all that sort of thing. We had a good conversation. He was locked in. He was asking good questions. He was bringing up good points. We had a good discussion. So, that’s it. We talked basketball. I’m a basketball coach, and he’s a basketball player. We talked hoop today.

“So as far as his commitment to what we’re doing basketball-wise, he was right there. As far as the rumors and all the other stuff, I can’t speak to. Again, that’s a question that you’ll have to have for him. As far as a distraction, [it] really hasn’t been that much of a distraction. It’s been something that the media has been talking about quite a bit, and I’ve had to answer a lot of questions. But as far as our growth, and our kind of pushing forward this season, we’ve kind of been right on pace. Adding him and P.J. to the mix just makes it better. So, I see it as a positive.”

Both Harden and Tucker participated fully in Monday’s workout at the Toyota Center, and Silas expects both to play Tuesday when the Rockets host the Spurs for their third exhibition outing. Because of Houston’s recent schedule featuring back-to-back games against the Chicago Bulls, Silas said the Rockets are “ramping [Harden] up just because of the circumstance,” adding “he’ll play tomorrow, and we’ll figure out the minutes tomorrow.”

After practice, Tucker said there were “multiple reasons” why he was late to training camp and he explained his reported desire for a contract extension.

“It’s not even just getting a contract extension,” Tucker said. “That’s not the total goal. The goal is to be in a place where you’re wanted, where you want to be, who wants you. I think that’s what every player wants. Nobody wants to be somewhere that [doesn’t] want them. There’s a certain way to show that, and it’s not just contract extensions.”


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

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