The Houston Rockets face the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday (10 ET, NBA TV) with limited lineup options, as the club listed six players on the official injury report as out while they advance through the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
The club designated John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Jones and Eric Gordon as out due to “health and safety protocols,” and listed rookie Kenyon Martin Jr. and Ben McLemore as out “self isolating.”
That leaves the Rockets with nine players available for Saturday’s contest at Portland, one more than the league’s minimum eight players required to play an NBA game. Houston looks to hit the court for the first time this season after the league postponed the Rockets’ season opener against Oklahoma City on Wednesday because they lacked the minimum number of available players required to field a game-day roster with six of them advancing through COVID-19 protocols.
The latest development won’t affect the availability of Rockets star guard James Harden, however. Although the league ruled Harden out for the season opener and issued a $50,000 fine due to violation of the league’s health and safety protocols, the guard fulfilled all the requirements of the NBA’s medical staff, which required him to quarantine for four days and produce four daily negative tests for coronavirus before he could be cleared to return. He will be active for the team’s first game.
“Year 12 for me,” Harden said, dodging questions about the NBA’s ruling. “I’m excited to be out here playing. You never want to take playing basketball for granted. So, I’m excited for tonight’s game.”
Harden’s $50,000 fine stemmed from a video published Tuesday on Black Sports Online that showed the Rockets star attending a party at a night club unmasked, which led to a review of the footage by the club and the NBA to determine whether he violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
The NBA’s coronavirus protocols prohibit players from attending social gatherings of more than 15 people, as well as bars, lounges and clubs. The protocols state that failure or refusal to comply could lead to disciplinary action by the NBA or the team, and could include a warning, fines and/or suspension, in addition to education or training sessions.
Harden initially posted an explanation to his Instagram story Wednesday, but that post was later deleted.
“One thing after another,” Harden posted. “I went to show my homegirl love at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in position of success and now it’s a problem. Everyday it’s something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can’t. The real always end on top.”
Multiple outlets have reported that Harden has requested a trade from the Rockets. Harden arrived at the team’s training camp on Dec. 8, but he wasn’t cleared to work out with the squad until he produced negative tests for COVID-19 on six consecutive days. As Harden advanced through the NBA’s coronavirus protocols, he missed the team’s first two exhibition outings against the Chicago Bulls.
Harden remains under contract in Houston for at least the next two seasons with a player option in 2022.