Is James Harden Playing Tonight? Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder Preview & Predictions

Published 12/23/2020, 3:11 PM EST
Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) passes the ball over San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and guard Lonnie Walker IV (middle right) and guard Dejounte Murray (5) during the first half. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports


The 2020/21 NBA season has kicked-off and two Western Conference giants are set to lock horns on Wednesday. A discontent Houston Rockets team takes on the Oklahoma City Thunder that looks to build its future around 22-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

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The game will be an intense one in several aspects, as the Rockets would be looking to shrug off their offseason drama behind and get into serious business. As for OKC, the departure of Chris Paul has opened up a void, but the players would be keen on getting off to a confident start. 

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – Injury and Lineup Updates 

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Rockets

The Rockets headed into the 2020 offseason with plenty of misery tied to their head. The franchise isn’t completely relieved of them as they’re hit by COVID-19 woes once again. 

An unnamed Houston Rockets player has contracted the virus and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were sent home from their most recent practice due to contact tracing. Though Wall tested negative, he and Cousins are still expected to miss out on the season opener.

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

Wall and Cousins aren’t the only ones affected due to the contact tracing protocol. Shooting guard Ben McLemore will also miss the OKC game after contracting the virus a few days ago.

However, Kenyon Martin Jr’s test is when it all led to contact tracing and eventually led to John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins being named questionable for the season opener. Rookie Jae’Sean Tate is also sent back to self-isolate due to the possibility of a spread.

Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins (15) looks to pass under pressure from San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) during the first half. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, their foundational player James Harden has got into more trouble which questions his eligibility for the OKC game. The league is currently investigating a video of Harden where he allegedly violated COVID-19 protocols. If found guilty, Harden will have to sit out against OKC. 

Eric Gordon (G)

Sterling Brown (G)

Danuel House (F)

P.J. Tucker (F)

Christian Wood (C)

Thunder

OKC is probably in a better position roster-wise when compared to the Rockets. Moreover, it was reported that the team had no idea about the game’s status when the COVID-19 tragedy was happening in Houston’s camp. 

But they’ll miss sophomore guard Ty Jerome due to injury and rookie Theo Maledon due to personal reasons in their opener against Houston. The availability of Trevor Azia (personal) is also yet to be confirmed. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (G)

Hamidou Diallo (G)

Luguentz Dort (F)

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Darius Bazley (F)

Al Horford (C)

Prediction

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This game just feels incomplete for several reasons, and the Rockets stand having taken heavy damage to their roster. Only a few players are available for the game and the result leans towards OKC on paper at the moment. They have more resources and a healthy starting five to propel them towards victory. Who do you think will open their campaign with a win?

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Arjun Athreya

1794 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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