Ananth Pandian of CBS Sports shared Harden’s statement on his decision to withdraw from the Games:
Harden is not the only notable NBA player to pull out of Olympic consideration. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry elected to skip the Games as he deals with ankle and knee injuries, per Warriors PR, while Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook released a statement Friday saying he will not play either, per NBA.com.
There are also concerns about the Zika virus in Brazil, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the nation’s problem with the disease as a Level 2, saying people should “practice enhanced precautions” when visiting the country.
Marcus Thompson of the San Jose Mercury News said Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala are considering missing the event because of Zika worries. It is not just an American issue, as Spain’s Pau Gasol isn’t sure whether he will participate because of the disease, per Tales Azzoni of the Associated Press.
While Harden and others will not play, Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins was “told he has earned a roster spot,” per Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant also told ESPN’s Royce Young he will suit up for Team USA, via Marc Stein of ESPN.
Durant and Cousins will help the Americans defend their gold medal, but the absence of Harden will be felt. He is a four-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-NBA First Team and was the MVP runner-up to Curry during the 2014-15 campaign.
He averaged a career-high 29 points per game this season and displayed his overall versatility with 7.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds per night as the primary ball-handler and offensive creator for the Rockets. He has averaged more than 25 points a game in each of the last four seasons as one of the best pure scorers in the league who can shoot from three (36.8 percent in his career) and attack the basket.
Harden also boasts extensive experience on Team USA as part of the gold-medal-winning team in the 2012 Olympics in London and championship squad at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
He played in eight contests in the 2012 Games and averaged 5.5 points per night as he took a back seat to superstars such as Durant, James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. However, he played a starring role in the FIBA World Cup and led the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game behind 53 percent shooting from the field and 42 percent shooting from three-point range.
Team USA will not have that playmaking available in Brazil.