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Report: The earliest James Harden can start practicing with Rockets due to COVID-19 protocols

James Harden, Rockets

James Harden will need to test negative for COVID-19 six consecutive days before being cleared to practice with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

If Harden continues to test negative, he would be cleared to practice with the Rockets on Monday, Dec. 14. Houston has preseason games against the Chicago Bulls on Friday and Sunday.

James Harden arrived at Rockets training camp late after celebrating rapper Lil Baby’s birthday in Atlanta and Las Vegas. The 2018 MVP has reportedly requested a trade from Houston and wants to get dealt to the Brooklyn Nets or Philadelphia 76ers, though he supposedly would be open to other contenders.

The Rockets traded 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for former No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Houston also acquired Christian Wood from the Detroit Pistons and signed DeMarcus Cousins in free agency.

However, those moves may not be enough to keep Harden in Houston. The three-time scoring champion, who has never made it past the Western Conference Finals with the Rockets, supposedly doesn’t believe in the culture of the Houston franchise.

In 68 games last season, Harden averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 35.5 percent from beyond the arc and 86.5 percent from the free-throw line. The Rockets won 44 games in the regular season and got to the Western Conference Semifinals, where the team was bounced in five games by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden is set to make $41,254,920 this season and $44,310,840 in 2021-22. He has a player option worth $47,366,760 for the 2022-23 campaign.