Trending: James Harden and Russell Westbrook Joins Rockets at NBA Bubble in Orlando

James Harden and Russell Westbrook
Rumors: James Harden and Russell Westbrook didn't travel to the Orlando Bubble with the team but are expected to join the team soon

The Rockets still aren’t quite at full strength as they approach their second week in Orlando, but one key member of Houston’s roster joined the team on Tuesday night.

After consistent speculation about his status for the restart of the season, James Harden arrived at the NBA bubble in Orlando Tuesday. Harden was not on the July 9 flight to Orlando with the Rockets, and no explanation for his absence was given. Yet the 2017-18 MVP now looks primed for a possible run at the NBA Finals, given the wait.

Why did James Harden and Russell Westbrook not travel with Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook were not … expected to join later: NBA bubble and NBA teams in Orlando.

One of Houston’s two MVPs is already absent as he plans to start the regular season on July 31. Nor was Russell Westbrook on the team’s flight to Orlando on July 9, and on Monday he revealed that he had already tested positive for COVID-19. Westbrook said he “feels fine, quarantined, and is looking forward to meeting my teammates when I’m cleared.

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Harden will now undergo an in-room quarantine as he begins COVID-19 testing inside the NBA bubble, per ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. He should be able to join the Rockets for practice after passing two coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart. The same protocol will apply to Russell Westbrook whenever Houston’s point guard arrives in Orlando.

Without their two superstars, the Rockets have held four practices in Orlando. Tuesday’s workout featured 5-on-5 drills and the preparation of his team’s head coach Mike D’Antoni looked pleased.

Today we played a lot more 5-on-5, which is really the first day we got into it,” D’Antoni told the media in a Zoom call on Tuesday. “They had three days to ramp up, and then today we went after it pretty hard. …I thought it was really good. I thought the defensive intensity was super.”

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Houston currently sits No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40–24. The Rockets will hold three scrimmages beginning on July 24 before resuming the season a week later. Tip-off against Dallas on July 31 is slated for 8 p.m. CT.

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