Why did Harden and Westbrook not travel with the Rockets to Orlando?

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets speaks with Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets speaks with Russell Westbrook #0 (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

On Thursday, news broke that Russell Westbrook and James Harden weren’t on the Houston Rockets’ flight to Orlando — but why could that be the case?

Shortly after it was announced that Thabo Sefolosha wasn’t going to be joining the Houston Rockets for the league’s restart, we received equally surprising news from Sefolosha. The veteran forward stated that several of his Rockets teammates tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which was provided courtesy of Rockets Wire.

Sefolosha’s account has yet to be officially verified by team officials or team sources, as the Rockets’ stance has been that they aren’t able to publicly comment on such matters. But Rockets Nation was delivered even more untimely news upon the team’s departure for Orlando on Thursday, although this time it came from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Houston stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook did not travel with Rockets today to Orlando and will join the team in near future, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 9, 2020

It’s hard not to make the connection between the novel coronavirus and the mysterious absences of Russell Westbrook and James Harden, especially with Charania essentially being unable to provide a timetable of when the superstar pairing will join the team.

As the news was reported, Rockets Wire pointed out that neither Westbrook nor Harden were made available when the team had their recent Zoom interviews on Friday, July 3rd. But another thing that’s noteworthy is in regards to the viral workouts we’ve seen from Harden and Westbrook of late.

Russ has been consistently training throughout the break, however, we’ve not seen such a workout video from Russ since June 22nd, which certainly adds to the speculation.

This is how you grind. Finisher!!! @russwest44 Monday Motivation #JustTrain #WhyNot

A post shared by Ron Boss Everline (@justtrain) on

In addition, prior to him posting on his Instagram account today, Russ hadn’t been active since June 28th, which adds even more speculation. As for Harden, his workouts haven’t been posted as frequently as Russ, but the last one we saw was on June 3rd, which is when he was training alongside former Houston Rockets forward Michael Beasley.

In fact, the last time we saw Harden in public, he was riding on Houston’s Southwest Freeway alongside rapper Lil’ Baby as the two were donning their Lamborghinis. This was on June 25th, which was 14 days before the Rockets departed for Orlando. But there’s also a flip side of the coin, which is that Rockets assistant coach John Lucas wasn’t with the team on the flight, and neither was newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute.

Still, though there are many things that would seem to mean Harden and Westbrook could potentially have the COVID-19, we can’t exactly assume that’s why they aren’t with the team right now.

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But either way, we’ve heard the recovery time is up to 14 days, so it would be one less thing to worry about regarding the superstar teammates down the line if they do in fact have the virus now.