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James Harden is essentially trying to George Costanza his way out of Houston, with two seasons remaining on his deal. He missed the opening of camp to attend a rapper’s birthday party at a strip club. Earlier this week, he allegedly had “verbal confrontations” during practice and threw a ball at a teammate. Then a video emerged of him maskless at a strip club (he really likes strip clubs).
Because it could be old or could be new, the Rockets and the NBA have to figure out when this video was taped. If it was in fact this week, then it is a violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, which would make Harden ineligible for Houston’s opener against the Thunder tonight. Tim MacMahon of ESPN says his status is up in the air:
Source: Rockets are working with NBA office to review video of James Harden at a strip club. If the video circulating on social media is verified to be recent, it is a violation of league's COVID protocols, which would put Harden's availability for tonight's opener in jeopardy.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 23, 2020
Whether this strip club visit was recent or older, the way Harden is behaving is childish, but it’s also the most effective strategy for him to get his way and play for a new team sooner rather than later. He’s probably a top-10 NBA player in a league with 30 teams, so he has leverage even though he’s signed for two more seasons. It has to be infuriating for Rockets fans, not to mention the organization, but Harden clearly doesn’t care.
Update: Harden denies that this video took place at a strip club.