James Harden Says He'd Be Comfortable with NBA Restart If Pandemic 'Calmed Down'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2020

Houston Rockets guard James Harden stands on the court during a break in the action against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, March 7, 2020. Charlotte won 108-99. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden says he'll feel most comfortable returning to play once the COVID-19 pandemic has "calmed down all the way to a minimum."

"I want it to be safe," he said Wednesday of any plans to resume the 2019-20 season, per Jabari Young of CNBC. "I want it to be entertaining for the fans and players to get out there and compete. As soon as we can get this ramped up, I'm ready to go. I feel like the majority of the players feel the same way."

There are mixed reports about when the NBA will begin ramping up for a potential return to play amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported Wednesday that teams believe commissioner Adam Silver and the league office "will issue guidelines around June 1 that will allow franchises to start recalling players who've left their markets as a first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season's resumption."

That isn't the only buzz:

Spencer Dinwiddie @SDinwiddie_25

That’s just practice... I heard those last 5 games at bubble site start July 15th. https://t.co/EsF3omehYQ

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry told @CNBC today that the NBA's Board of Governors are scheduled to meet via teleconference next Friday (May 29) and said: "I think we're getting a lot closer."

Young, however, reported that "a person familiar with the league's planning told CNBC the NBA isn't yet prepared to roll out any guidelines aimed at recalling players."

Harden said the players association and the league have held "multiple conversations," though there are still "so many things that have to be figured out. But the sooner, the better."

When, or if, the season does return, Harden's Rockets will be in the postseason mix. The team is 40-24 and sixth in the Western Conference. Harden is having another impressive season and is in the thick of the MVP race, averaging 34.4 points, 7.4 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. However, even getting out of the first round could be difficult given the Rockets' current seeding.

If the season ended today, they'd face the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Win that, and the Los Angeles Clippers would likely await, and potentially the Lakers in the Conference Finals. If Houston is going to play for a title this year, it'll have to go through a lion's den.