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The NBA has to step in and do something about James Harden


We wondered when and how player empowerment will go too far. "Hold my beer," said James Harden. While the Rockets new coach Stephen Silas said he believes James Harden will have an individual workout later that day, James Harden was getting ready for a night out in Las Vegas. Internet was on fire, posting photos of Harden having a good time.

I've written about this on few occasions - there will come a time when a player crosses the line and Adam Silver will have to step in and put his foot down. We've arrived at that point. For all the deserved praise we've given commisioner Silver since he took power, his soft attitude towards players is his Achilles heel. How he deals with Harden will mark Silver's tenure as commissioner. 

Breach of contract 

Harden could've come to training camp, said he had a sore back, and go back home. We would all know his back doesn't hurt and he was applying pressure to get traded, and the team would tolerate it. Superstars get extra wiggle room from regular players and all of us.

“This isn't just Harden crossing the line, this is James Harden in the middle of a pandemic, at the beginning of training camp. Forget about crossing the line, going to the front of the frikin' VIP line in Vegas while the Rockets are practicing a thousand miles away.”

Tim MacMahon, The Lowe Post

Harden is obviously breaching his contract. If the Rockets would activate the clause and fine Harden, the Players Union would fight for Harden, but that's not why they're not doing it. The logic of the league right now is that you never want to get into a conflict with your superstar, even if he is one foot out the door.

That's the same logic that got the Rockets in this situation, to begin with! If other superstars wouldn't sign with the Rockets because they fined Harden for doing this, then the players around the league need to have a long conversation with each other.

The Rockets did everything they could for Harden since he arrived from OKC. From a franchise guy's perspective, you could say their only sin was they pandered to him too much. Not paying a guy when he not only doesn't show up for work but goes partying in Las Vegas is the least the Rockets should do.

COVID protocol

A few days ago, the NBA released a hundred and something page protocol that defined how teams should minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 during the season. This is what players are supposed to do from November 27th.

“All tier 1 (players) individuals must self-quarantine at home other than for “essential activities," such as trips to the grocery store and hospital, dropping off or picking up children, and traveling to the team facility for COVID-19 testing and individual workouts.”

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The protocol specifically forbids players from using team lounges or rec rooms, and team dinners are not allowed. Not showing up for training camp and partying in Vegas is a Rockets problem, but a problem Adam Silver should have at no.2 on his priority list.

It's no.2 only because Harden is also violating the NBA's no.1 priority - responsible behavior during a global pandemic. James Harden basically dosed the protocol in his favorite flammable liquid and set it on fire by partying in Las Vegas (and Atlanta). This is an NBA League Office issue and anything except swift action would be a disappointment.

“I've already heard from 3-4 people out of the blue today, who don't work for the Rockets saying “The league has to step in and do something about this, this is not OK.” This is going to become the latest referendum on player empowerment and when does it go too far.”

Zach Lowe, The Lowe Post

If Lou Williams got 10 days quarantine for visiting a strip club in Atlanta, what does this qualify Harden for?


“If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”


We all know what karma is. If there's one group of people the Silver administration is soft on, it's the players, and it came back to bite them in the ass. It's like raising kids - if they never hear "no," you can't be surprised when they act out. With how they treated resting players on nationally televised games and the Bucks Bogdanović affair, we can deduce bad PR is what worries the league. You can load manage and tamper. just don't do it blatantly.

Harden knew the storm this would cause. He did it precisely because he expects all the scrutiny this will cause will push to Rockets to trade him sooner than later. Let's see if Adam Silver holds him to the same standard he does teams when they cause bad PR.

The Teams

The Rockets are responsible too, and they're not the only team in the NBA that is being slowly boiled by the players. You start off with a few concessions, next thing you know a guy wants to leave after you traded all your assets until 2025 because he asked you to. When you don't immediately trade him exactly where he wants to go, you can't be surprised if he sends you a postcard from Vegas on first day of training day.

The Players

The game is played for the fans. Harden may feel he does not owe anything to Tilman Fertita (and I'd understand that sentiment completely). But the Rockets have a contract with Harden's signature that says otherwise. More importantly, Harden has a contract of sorts with a lot of fans who spent their hard-earned dollars to watch him play and wear his jersey.

Dollars they earned working jobs they have to show up for, whether they feel like it or not. The pendulum always swings back, and the players need to police themselves so it doesn't swing too hard the other way. It's a thin line between empowerment and spoiled rotten.

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