NBA

Harden returns in Rockets' win over Spurs amid 76ers, Nets links

Three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden was back in action with the Houston Rockets on Tuesday as rumours of a trade continue.

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Harden returns in Rockets' win over Spurs

James Harden returned to the floor for the Houston Rockets, the three-time reigning NBA scoring champion making his preseason bow amid mounting trade speculation on Tuesday.

Harden took part in his first practice session on Monday, having missed the start of training camp following reports the former NBA MVP wants to be traded.

The Philadelphia 76ers – though unwilling to part with either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid – are reportedly frontrunners to deal for Harden, ahead of Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

In the meantime, Harden was back in a Rockets uniform as Houston beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden posted 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes of action.

Silas: "Harden's obviously a great player"

"He was good, he was good," first-year Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said during his post-game news conference.

"He's obviously a great player and can do so many things on the floor, on and off the ball.

"Defensively he has good hands, can make plays and he's smart. So to have him out there was great."

Harden and Wall show early promise

It was the first time Harden and recruit John Wall shared the court since the latter was acquired from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Russell Westbrook.

Five-time All-Star Wall scored 15 points against the Spurs, and on the ceiling of an offense led by the star duo, Silas added: "It could be really good. To have two dynamic ball handlers on the floor who can do a bunch of things for each other and create for each other.

"It's something that happens over time. John's had the ball for the first two games and now tonight, it was kind of off-ball, on-ball. So, they just have to get used to it.

"I have to be conscious of making sure that they're comfortable with what we're doing."

In 2019-20, points scored by Harden and points scored off his assists averaged 52.4 per game. It followed 53.9 in 2018-19, 51.3 in 2017-18 and 56 the season previous.

That marked four successive seasons with 50-plus points per game created, tying Oscar Robertson (1963-64 to 1966-67) for the longest streak in NBA history.

Harden averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game for the Rockets, who lost in the Western Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Rockets open their 2020-21 season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 23.