HOUSTON >> The James Harden soap opera in Houston now comes with a canceled season opener — and a $50,000 fine for the league’s leading scorer.
Houston’s opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight was scrapped after coronavirus cases and Harden’s violation of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players available.
It was a dispiriting blow to the NBA on just the second night of an uncertain season launching with the pandemic still raging.
The NBA announced the postponement in a release that said three Rockets players had returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive and that four other players were quarantined because of contract tracing.
The release also said that Harden was unavailable for the game because of a violation of health and safety protocols after video of the disgruntled star surfaced on social media where he was without a mask at a crowded party in a private event space Monday night.
The league later announced the fine for Harden, saying the protocols prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments.
Already a distraction to the team amid months of rumors that he wants to be traded. Harden’s latest move potentially threatened the health and safety of his team and kept the Rockets from beginning their season.
Houston has 16 players on its roster; with seven dealing with tests or quarantine and one hurt, that would…