James Harden was supposed to show up to work on Sunday as the Houston Rockets opened individual workouts for training camp. Instead, Harden was nowhere to be found. New head coach Stephen Silas said he has had no recent communication with his superstar guard, while Harden chose to issue a statement on Instagram in the form of an enlarged ‘grimace face’ emoji.
This all comes on the heels of an offseason full of turmoil for Houston. Longtime lead executive Daryl Morey left to join the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Mike D’Antoni was shown the door, and Russell Westbrook forced his way out with a trade to the Washington Wizards. Harden has reportedly tried to force his way out too, with the Brooklyn Nets being his preferred location.
Harden has spent eight seasons in Houston and sees the end of the team’s contention window just like everyone else. No-showing to training camp just might be his way of strong-arming Houston into trading him, similar to how Jimmy Butler once forced his way out of Minnesota. Of course, there’s a still a big difference between how Butler and Harden go about their business: while Butler kept himself in peak shape so he could show up for a scrimmage and promptly demolish the rest of the team’s starters, Harden has been out partying.