The disgruntled superstar spoke to media on Wednesday for the first time since reporting late to camp amid reports he wanted to leave Houston. Harden, who made his preseason debut on Tuesday night, was directly asked if he wants to be traded.
“Right now I’m just focused on being here,” he said. “Today was good. Yesterday, it was really good to be there for the first time since the bubble. ”
While the rest of the Rockets were in Houston for the start of training camp earlier this month, Harden was pictured at rapper Lil Baby’s birthday party in Atlanta and at a nightclub in Las Vegas.
Beard was asked what message he was sending the team as he traveled the country when he should have been in training.
“I was just practicing,” he says.
“The start of the NBA season,” he said.
Reporters continued to pressure Harden on how being in Atlanta and Vegas could prepare him for the season and he replied, “Just, you know, my personal trainers. ”
The exchange was curious, especially as Harden appears to be in worse physical condition than in Houston’s last playoff game. Social media went wild with jokes about his apparent weight gain after being seen in uniform Tuesday night for the first time in months.
Speculation about Harden’s future has cast a cloud over the Rockets since joining camp and new coach Stephen Silas seems to have grown weary of answering the same questions about his star.
Harden dismissed the suggestion that the trade rumors could be a distraction for the team.
“Since I’ve been here, nothing has been said about this. … I’m just getting ready for the season so that’s all that matters, ”he said.
Harden was traded to the Oklahoma City Rockets in 2012 as part of a deal orchestrated by former general manager Daryl Morey. Now that Morey is gone for the 76ers, Harden has been asked about his relationship with new general manager Rafael Stone.
His response didn’t sound encouraging to those hoping to see Harden stay.
“We didn’t have a conversation,” he says.
As for Silas, the coach said he doesn’t have a clearer idea of what Harden wants now that he’s back with the squad.
“If we knew exactly… where his head was, I think it would be good for everyone,” Silas said. “But we are really dealing with how things change from day to day. Things are changing game by game. And like I said before, my job is to coach this basketball team and make sure the guys are in the right position.
While Harden didn’t want to talk about his future, he was laudatory of Silas and his staff.
“There are a lot of changes,” Harden said. “All the coaching staff, part of the front office, a lot of players. And that’s where we are. So the coach did an amazing job just communicating with the guys, just putting the structure in place and getting things done.
The question is whether Harden will still be on the squad when they do.