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Source: Harden needs 6 straight negative tests

Houston Rockets star James Harden must have six consecutive negative COVID-19 tests before the NBA clears him to practice with the team, a league source told ESPN.

Harden, the eight-time All-Star who has requested to be traded to a contender, did not report to the Toyota Center for COVID-19 testing until Tuesday, two days after the Rockets held their first team practice. If he continues testing negative, he could be cleared to practice Monday.

After Wednesday’s practice, the Rockets remained uncertain about when Harden would be cleared to practice because they were awaiting word from the NBA about the COVID-19 protocols following the superstar’s holdout from training camp.

“We’re just trying to iron all that stuff out right now,” said first-year Rockets coach Stephen Silas, who also noted that free agent signee Sterling Brown had yet to practice with the Rockets due to COVID-19 protocols. “I wish I had a good answer for you. I wish I had a better answer for you when it comes to all that, but I don’t.”

The NBA required players to test negative for the coronavirus for three consecutive days before entering team facilities for individual workouts before training camp. Players were also required to quarantine aside from testing and workouts at the team facility and essential activities such as grocery shopping.

However, Harden opted to work out on his own at the University of Houston, and attended rapper Lil Baby’s birthday party in Atlanta over the weekend and then spent a few nights in Las Vegas. Harden did not wear a face mask at the birthday party or in Las Vegas nightclubs, social events that violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

“It’s really hard to kind of put a finger on what the protocol looks like at this point just because of how the timing is,” Silas said. “It’s not the same timing that everybody else had, right? As far as when he can start doing individual workouts, when he can join the team, when he can practice, we’re working with the NBA trying to figure out exactly when that is.

“But as far as I know right now, there isn’t a clear plan as far as what that looks like, just because it’s outside of the way that we were doing it with the original group.”

During his holdout, Harden and Silas did not have any communication. They had a brief interaction Wednesday, according to Silas.

“I said hello to him,” Silas said.

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