• Brian L. Barefield

Broken Silence: Harden holds his first press conference to silence some of the critics.

It has been a while since we have heard Rockets superstar James Harden speak and on Wednesday, he finally broke his silence and spoke to the media for the first time since Houston was eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Playoffs earlier this year. After going through an offseason filled with drama and adversity from trade rumors to partying before training camp, Harden finally sat down and answered some of the burning questions media members and fans have wondered for the last month.

“Right now, I am just focused on being here,” said Harden when asked directly if he wanted to be traded. “There has been a lot of changes. Obviously, the entire coaching staff and some of the front office and a lot of the players. This is just where we are.”

Harden has been scrutinized and criticized by the media for a number of reports that he wanted to be traded to a championship contender such as the Brooklyn Nets or the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams have individuals that Harden has personal relationships with, in former head coach Mike D’Antoni (Nets) and Daryl Morey (76ers). As of now talks have slowed down as neither team is willing to depart with what they perceive as cornerstone pieces for Harden.

Earlier this month, Harden was spotted in Atlanta at the birthday party of rapper Lil Baby where video surfaced of him gifting the rapper a Prada bag full of honey buns, a $200,000 Richard Millie watch, and $100,000 in cash. Last year’s NBA leading scorer was spotted again a couple of days later partying in Las Vegas right before the Rockets were scheduled to open training camp. Both instances pictured Harden without a mask on which violates the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol and required him to be tested six times for the coronavirus. The results were negative all six times, but it caused him to miss the Rockets preseason games in Chicago.

When asked what he was doing in the aforementioned cities before camp began, Harden responded that he was there to train for the start of the NBA season with his personal trainers.

“I can only focus on right now,” Harden elaborated to the media about his mindset about being back with the team. “The best James Harden is making sure that I am in shape. Yesterday was my first time being back out there I felt good and it was exciting.”

A lot has been said about the former NBA MVP on sports talk shows and when asked did he feel like he was a distraction to the team he answered firmly and without hesitation.

“Since I have been here nothing has been said about it,” said the six-time All-NBA First Team player. “Everybody in the locker room and coaching staff has been focused on ramping up and preparing for the season. That’s all that matters.”

Harden will take the court again on Thursday at Toyota Center for his second preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs.

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