James Harden, Russell Westbrook to Join Rockets ‘In a Few Days’

Michael Shapiro

The Rockets kicked off their first practice on Orlando on Saturday, but two key pieces were not with the team as Houston begins its quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Neither James Harden nor Russell Westbrook joined the Rockets on their flight to Orlando on Thursday, and neither player was in attendance at Houston's practice on Saturday. Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni noted the pair of MVP absences "wasn't ideal," but D'Antoni expressed little concern over their delay in arrival. D'Antoni and the Rockets expect Harden and Westbrook to join the team in Orlando "in a few days."

"I hope [they arrive] sooner than later. I don't think it will be too many days, so it'll work itself out," D'Antoni told the media on a Zoom call on Saturday. "Some things you can't control totally, but in a few days they'll be here."

Houston still held practice without its superstars on Saturday. The Rockets did not hold a full 5-on-5 team scrimmage, though they went through a series of drills, per D'Antoni. The Rockets will practice again early Sunday evening, with their first scrimmage slated for July 24 in a matchup with the Grizzlies.

Harden and Westbrook weren't the lone Rockets to miss Houston's flight on Thursday. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute did not accompany the team to Houston, though he is also expected to appear in Orlando. The Rockets signed Mbah a Moute on July 1 after forward Thabo Sefolosha opted out of the NBA's return to play.

The Rockets enter the NBA's restart No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40–24. They will face the Mavericks in their first regular season game in Orlando on July 31. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT.