James Harden arrives in NBA’s Orlando restart bubble

James Harden arrives
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Turns out the Beard is feeling fine — Tuesday night he arrived in Orlando for the NBA’s restart.

James Harden arrives five days after his teammates — without an explanation as to why — and now must pass three coronavirus tests before he can join his teammates on the practice court.

Harden is the first of the Rockets’ two superstars to arrive. Russell Westbrook self-identified as having tested positive for the coronavirus. He is quarantining at home and expects to join the team in Orlando when healthy, but there is no timetable.

Harden, a perennial MVP candidate, is critical to making the Rockets’ micro-ball system work. He is averaging a league-best 34.4 points a game, plus pitches in 7.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds a night. His isolation play is the heart of the Rockets’ halfcourt offense.

Houston enters the bubble as the sixth seed in a crowded West, just one game out of the four seed, 2.5 out of the three seed, but also 1.5 from falling back to the seven seed. Houston and Mike D’Antoni have gone all-in on playing small — the Rockets don’t start anyone taller than 6’6″ — and with that become one of the most interesting teams in Orlando. If this team got bounced in the first round of the playoffs it wouldn’t be a shock, but it’s also not out of the question they could reach the conference finals. This is an unpredictable team.

It was never going to work without Harden and Westbrook. Now half of the tandem is in Orlando.