Winfield column

Source: Chicago Tribune / Getty

With the NBA season set to start in less than three weeks, James Harden‘s latest preseason activities have been a cause for concern with regard to the safety of his team and the rest of the NBA, which is currently at an 8.7% positivity rate for COVID-19.

From this past weekend, there is a video circulating of The Beard partying in a yet unnamed “popular” Houston strip club. Harden was celebrating Lil Baby’s birthday, and he blessed the rapper with $100,000 cash and a $200,000 Richard Mille watch.

However, Harden was then unavailable for the team’s practice on Sunday. When the Rockets’ new head coach Stephen Silas was asked about Harden’s absence, he told ESPN’s Tim McMahon that the 2018 MVP had to sit out due to COVID-19 protocols, which makes clear that “players and staff are forbidden to enter bars, lounges or clubs… or large indoor social gatherings that exceed 15 people.” Then, when Silas was asked about his superstar’s commitment to the team, Silas’ reply was, “That’s a question you’re going to have to ask him when he gets here.”

In a tellingly cryptic manner, Harden chose to reply to all the chatter of his shenanigans on his Instagram story with a Grimacing Face emoji, which has likely put no Houstonian at ease.

The Beard is known for his strong love of gentlemen’s clubs, so much so that data analysis has been run to track for his performance versus a given city’s standard of strip clubs. According to Jamil “Mal” Clay from the Joe Budden Podcast, he even spent $1 million in one night at a particular club and had his jersey retired by that establishment.

It is troubling that a player of his caliber appears to be in such flagrant violation of the policies, but rumors are that his behavior is really an attempt to force a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. Many of the players were said to want out of H-Town due to rumors that Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was a supporter of Donald Trump. And we don’t know if the Rockets’ recent acquisition of John Wall will incline Harden to reconsider. Hopefully, Harden takes a page from Clippers’ guard Lou Williams and can be tempted to stay in Houston for the food instead.