Houston Rockets news: Rotation for season opener decimated by COVID-19 contact tracing

The latest Houston Rockets news doesn't bode well for the start of coach Stephen Silas' tenure, as the squad is beset by COVID-19 contact tracing.

By Matt Fitzgerald
Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas (left) and forward Bruno Caboclo (5) react during a time out in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets are on the precipice of an exciting new era even in the shadow of superstar James Harden’s trade demands, but are likely to get their 2020-21 NBA season off to a rocky start on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

All-Stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are among those who won’t be in action in Houston as the Rockets deal with a potential COVID-19 issue.

Rockets news: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins to miss season opener vs. Thunder

Rockets news: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins among those out vs. Thunder
Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard John Wall (1) comes up with a loose ball in front of San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Shams Charania of The Athletic passed along the troubling news ahead of tonight’s tip-off:

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided further details, indicating guard Ben McLemore tested positive for COVID-19:

Now, it’s irresponsible to speculate too much on this serious matter before all the facts are in. That said, there isn’t much of a stretch to be made when it comes to suggesting Harden’s recent actions might have something to do with this.

Wojnarowski has since reported that Wall, Cousins and Kenyon Martin Jr. were away from the team facility getting haircuts, which is what triggered the contact tracing. Nevertheless, the fact that it wouldn’t take much of a leap in logic to presume Harden was the culprit out of the gate speaks to the woeful circumstances that surround the organization due to The Beard’s antics.

Related: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins to launch Rockets after James Harden trade?

Rockets news: NBA reviewing James Harden video, leaving status in doubt

Rockets news: James Harden could miss season opener
Dec 17, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts during the fourth quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to being a disgruntled player who’s been painted in a seriously unflattering light, Harden’s off-court behavior, namely partying at a strip club without a mask and breaking the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols if it’s been any time recent, is bringing about questions regarding his general wherewithal about anything not related to the pure act of playing basketball.

Check out this scoop from ESPN insider Tim MacMahon, who wrote a scathing expose on Harden and how he’s received preferential treatment over the years within the Rockets organization:

Honestly, is it such a conspiracy theory to suggest Harden’s negligent partying and implicit selfishness are linked? At least as it’s being reported right now, apparently Harden is in the clear in this case.

In any event, there are classier ways to go about demanding a trade than the way Harden has approached it. He’s clearly out of shape, doesn’t seem interested in ingratiating himself with his new teammates or with first-year head coach Stephen Silas. It’s all just ego-driven nonsense that has no place in Houston, but the team is stuck with The Beard for now.

Related: 6 most realistic James Harden trade scenarios

Rockets news: Who will start season opener?

Rockets news: Who will start season opener?
Dec 17, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Christian Wood #35 of the Houston Rockets puts up a shot during the second quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Until there are more details available, it’s difficult to say. Houston will probably be happy at this point to have enough players to make sure the game goes on as scheduled. Newly acquired big man Christian Wood presents a fun new dimension to the Rockets as a legitimate rebounder who can stretch the floor and stroke it from 3-point range.

In the backcourt rotation, Eric Gordon is returning from last year’s squad and is a pure perimeter shooter who can create his own offense off the dribble, too. Perhaps if he’s available, Gordon show off more of his skill set than usual if the ball-dominant Harden is found to be in violation of COVID-19 protocols and is out.

Otherwise, on the perimeter at least, we’re looking at the likes of Sterling Brown leading Houston’s guard platoon, with McLemore already declared out while he self isolates. The good news is, Wall tested negative for the coronavirus, suggesting his immediate outlook to return is somewhat promising

It’s looking pretty bleak at least for Wednesday. The hope is the Rockets can get back to full strength soon to build their chemistry fast and make a run for the playoffs. Of course, though, the top priority is keeping everyone safe amid this COVID-19 scare.