Michael Wyke/Associated Press
The Houston Rockets were reportedly without their two biggest stars as they traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the NBA’s restart on Thursday.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, James Harden and Russell Westbrook did not travel to the league’s bubble environment with the rest of the team. However, the plan is for both All-Star guards to “join the team in [the] near future.”
While Harden and Westbrook were not present, head coach Mike D’Antoni was reportedly on Thursday’s team flight.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN reported the 69-year old traveled with the team after recently undergoing medical screenings that did not return any “red flags.” That means he will coach as planned in Florida, albeit while wearing a mask.
As for Harden and Westbrook, it is surely welcome news for Houston that they will eventually join the team.
After all, the Rockets would have no realistic chance to compete against the Western Conference’s best teams once the season does restart if they were without their two guards. Their offense frequently runs through each, and their ability to either blow by defenders on the way to the basket or step back and hit from the outside creates shots for themselves and opens up looks for teammates.
Harden won the 2017-18 league MVP and is a two-time scoring champion and six-time All-NBA selection, while Westbrook won the 2016-17 league MVP and is a two-time scoring champion, two-time assist champion and eight-time All-NBA selection.
They reached the 2012 NBA Finals while playing together on the Oklahoma City Thunder and will look to take the next step and win the championship when play begins again in Florida.
Houston is 40-24 and tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fifth-best record in the West. It is also within striking distance of the third seed, 2.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets and one game behind the Utah Jazz.
The Rockets’ first game in Florida is scheduled for July 31 against the Dallas Mavericks.
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