The anticipation was high for James Harden to finally play in the Houston Rockets preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, December 15. However, the eight-time All-Star, whose NBA bio indicates he weighs 220 pounds, showed up on the court looking noticeably bigger than he did last season.
Harden, who’s publicly announced his desire to be traded, didn’t attend his first practice with Houston until Monday, after which first-year Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he seemed fine.
“You can ask him about his commitment and all that sort of thing,” said Silas, per ESPN. “But we had a good conversation. He was locked in. He was asking good questions. He was bringing up good points. We had a good discussion.”
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 16, 2020
While Silas did not mention Harden’s appearance, Twitter users dubbed him “James Hamburger” and kept the jokes coming. One person joked, “I’m not one to talk but…did James Harden eat an entire stripper?”
Did the NBA just sim to 2035 on James Harden? pic.twitter.com/O2zswt2Cdn
— Troydan (@Troydan) December 16, 2020
James Harden has been eatin GOOD pic.twitter.com/v2XMn1LYIE
— The Tailgate Talk (@TheTailgateTlk) December 16, 2020
James harden came in at least 20 pounds overweight Jesus he looks big
— reed (@reedhuls15) December 16, 2020
James Harden yesterday vs James Harden today pic.twitter.com/0ZbaD6HeD9
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 16, 2020
— Manvir Bains (@MannyBLFC) December 16, 2020
Many users online had trouble believing the picture was real. However, Harden was also photographed entering the arena before the game where he appeared “thicker,” as numerous Twitter users pointed out. A viral photo of Harden “yesterday” compared with today is actually from March 2020.
In Addition to the Miami Heat, Harden Has His Eye on Numerous Teams as Preferred Trade Options
After rejecting an offer to become the NBA’s first player to earn $50 million a year, “The Beard” has reportedly named a few teams on his preferred trade wish list.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Brooklyn Nets are his top pick. By joining Nets stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, ESPN reported, Harden believes the new “Big 3” would secure him a chance to play in the 2021 NBA Finals.
In addition to Brooklyn and the Milwaukee Bucks, Harden’s also considering the Philadelphia 76ers. However, “the Rockets and the Sixers have had no substantive talks about a potential Harden deal,” sources told ESPN on December 8. “New Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, the Rockets’ general manager for the previous 13 seasons, has said he has no intention to break up the Sixers’ All-Star duo of center Joel Embiid and guard/forward Ben Simmons.”
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) December 16, 2020
Whatever Harden is planning to do, Houston’s head coach had nothing to comment on following practice on December 14. “We talked basketball,” Silas said, according to ESPN. “I’m a basketball coach, and he’s a basketball player. We talked hoop today. As far as his commitment to what we’re doing basketball-wise, he was right there. As far as the rumors and all the other stuff I can’t speak to, again, that’s another question you’ll have to ask of him.”
With Giannis Antetokounmpo Secured in Milwaukee, Is Harden Most Likely to Land in Miami?
— 𝓐𝓭𝓻𝓲𝓪𝓷 🌙🐬 (8-5) (@Pray4Adry) December 15, 2020
Just because Giannis Antetokounmpo dashed the dreams of Heat fans hoping the Greek Freak would head to Miami, that does not mean that Harden’s trade from the Rockets is a sure thing.
Antetokounmpo signing his supermax $228.2 million deal to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks was a blow to the numerous teams protecting cap space to make a run at him in free agency this summer, the Heat included, and Miami does have the cap space to spend their money getting talent elsewhere. While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are under contract next season, just about everyone else has a team option lurking.
After letting key rotation player Jae Crowder head to Phoenix, the Heat could potentially have more than $40 million in cap space next summer.