Both former MVPs have yet to arrive at the “bubble” complex in Florida, where the NBA’s 2019-20 season will restart later this month. The Rockets arrived last Thursday and have practiced since Saturday.
Westbrook’s absence is due to a positive test for COVID-19, for which the NBA requires a minimum period of 14 days away from the basketball court and multiple negative tests before a player can rejoin his teammates. As of Tuesday, the reason for Harden’s absence remains undisclosed.
Nonetheless, the Rockets continue to publicly insist that both will rejoin the team shortly, and it sounds as if they’re similarly confident in private settings. On Tuesday, NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic said:
James Harden is feeling fine, he has been working out to make sure that he stays in shape. He may travel with Russell Westbrook to Orlando once Westbrook clears [protocols] from the coronavirus.
Everyone around the Rockets is optimistic that they will be able to get Westbrook and Harden into Orlando, sooner rather than later.
A source tells our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania that Rockets star James Harden is feeling fine, working out and may travel with Russell Westbrook to Orlando when Westbrook clears from coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/O8CsLBxGJK
— Stadium (@Stadium) July 14, 2020
In line with Charania’s reports, D’Antoni said Monday that both stars are working out on their own to stay in shape. That’s why he expects them to “hit the ground running” once they arrive, and it’s also why D’Antoni doesn’t expect their brief absence to be a setback for the Rockets.
Since Westbrook and Harden were not on the team’s original charter flight to Florida, they must test negative three times for COVID-19 before traveling to Orlando. Late arrivers must also go through the NBA’s initial two-day period of self-quarantine and COVID-19 testing upon entering the bubble. That means they won’t be able to join their teammates on the practice court until two days after their arrival.
The 2019-20 regular season won’t resume for the Rockets until Friday, July 31 versus Dallas, which gives Harden and Westbrook (and the Rockets) plenty of wiggle room as they navigate those logistics.