Video has surfaced on social media, and been published by Black Sports Online, of Rockets guard James Harden allegedly partying maskless at the “first annual Selective Group Winter Ball” at a Houston strip club just a couple of days ago. Harden has denied he was at a strip club, saying he was at a private party for a friend.
The NBA released 158 pages of health and safety guidelines, which specifically said players should not go to bars or clubs, or be in public without a mask.
That incident could have Harden suspended for the Rockets opening night matchup Wednesday against Oklahoma City Wednesday.
He may not be the only Rockets payer sidelined — John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and others have been sent home because of a positive test by Kenyon Martin Jr., who is officially listed on the Houston injury report as “Not With Team — Self Isolating.”
There was a group of Houston players — including Martin, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins — away from the facility at an apartment getting haircuts, sources said. That’s led to the contact tracing on Wall and Cousins as team awaits more testing results on Martin, sources said.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 23, 2020
Martin has reportedly had one positive and one negative test in the past day, the league is testing again to see which is the false test result.
It’s unclear how many players Houston will have active for Wednesday night’s game, league rules mandate they have at least eight active players to play the game. The team’s Ben McLemore had already tested positive before any of this, and the Rockets may be cutting it close to hit that number.
All of this comes with the backdrop that Harden has requested a trade out of Houston and is being disruptive at practice trying to force Houston’s hand.
The NBA is investigating whether the video is recent and if Harden violated league policy. If so, he could face a suspension that would sideline him for the Rockets opener, reports Tim MacMahon at ESPN.
According to the health and safety protocols, failure or refusal to comply could subject a player to disciplinary action by the NBA or his team, including a warning, fine and/or suspension, as well as being required to participate in an education or training session. Repeat offenders may be subject to enhanced discipline…
Sources told ESPN that Harden had COVID-19 during the summer before the NBA season restart, which is why he was late reporting to the league’s Walt Disney World bubble. Players who have recovered from the coronavirus are still required to follow the league’s health and safety protocols.
Harden has denied this was at a strip club in a post on his Instagram story, but essentially confirmed he was maskless at a party. He has since deleted the post.
James Harden posts a response on his IG.
Houston and the NBA are reviewing video of Harden maskless at a gathering to determine if it was recent enough to violate COVID-19 protocol, per @espn_macmahon pic.twitter.com/L1XjkQbah9
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 23, 2020
Whether or not the event was at a strip club, it still could violate the league guidelines for going to a large gathering of people without a mask. It could still lead to Harden being suspended.
That Harden had COVID-19 between Houston being eliminated from the bubble by the Lakers and the start of training camp was basically an open secret around the league. However, it does not mean he can violate league protocols (the last thing the NBA wants to do is have two sets of rules, one where whoever already had the disease has more freedoms of action than those who do not).
All of the Harden drama is completely separate from the report, first by Shams Charania of The Athletic, that several other Rockets players could miss the opener because of coronavirus contact tracing.
We now know who that player is, we just don’t yet know the ultimate result.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have heard nothing from the league about the game being postponed.
Ahead of tonight’s scheduled game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, sources say that the Thunder have not had any communication from the league about what is happening, or the status of tonight’s game.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 23, 2020
All of this needs to be resolved within hours, and it could leave the Rockets very shorthanded for the opener. If the game is played at all.