James Harden is back in Houston uniform.
It is still unclear how many more times this will happen.
The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his pre-season debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, starting practice with his team a day before arriving late for training camp amid continuous commercial specs. Horden scored 12 points in 21 minutes as the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.
Harden has four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He last checked in with 5:02 left in the third quarter to miss his last four shots.
John Wall and Ben McLemore scored 15 points each for the Rockets, 11 points each from Eric Gordon and Jace Tate and 11 rebounds from De Marcus Cousins. As expected, Wall and Harden starters in Houston backcourt.
“It was really good,” said first-year Rockets coach Stephen Silas. “To have two dynamic ball handlers on the floor, they can do different things, play with each other, create each other, which is really good.”
Harden did not plan on targeting reporters after the game.
“It was a pleasure to see him back on the ground,” McLemore said.
Loser Walker scored 17 for IV Spurs, with 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Desante Murray. Lamarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassel scored 11 for San Antonio.
Harden is not interested in launching his first live game action this season. He immediately stood to the right of Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at what the coach was sketching on the dry-erase clipboard before taking the floor.
Harden’s first shot was a quick-made 3-pointer and his second attempt led him to foul from across the arc and make three free throws.
So, there’s his shooting touch, at least at the very beginning _ there’s his touch on the passes. He connected with Daniel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, not much of a problem after a two-month vacation.
Harden scored 3 for 10 from the field, including 6 for 2 from a 3-point range. He scored 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.
“I thought our youngsters played him very smart,” Spurs coach Greg Popovich said. “I think we fouled him once in a 3-point shot, but it’s going to happen to him. He’s very intelligent. We’re better than John Wall. I thought John Wall came to us very often.”
Wall said he did not hire Harden to stay in Houston, instead focusing on how they can now work together as team members.
“He’s going to do his best. … I’m not trying to ask about him, because it’s his personal business,” Wall said.
After being removed from court in a wheelchair, Rockets guard Chris Clemons was left at 9:58. Clemons made a 3-pointer to the 87-74 Houston lead, and after going back to the defensive end for the next possession, appeared to have taken a bad step and immediately began to reach his right Achilles area.
Clemons did not immediately confirm the injury, but gave his reaction when it happened and it makes sense to think that as he spins the wheel off the ground, the rockets are bracing for bad news.
“As soon as this happened, I knew exactly what it was,” said Wall, who performed the Achilles surgery himself.
There are four games on Wednesday, then seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three on Saturday in the pre-season finals. The regular season starts from December 22nd.
76ERS 108, Celtics99
In Philadelphia, Sheikh Milton finished with 19 points, Joel Embiid with 18, Tobias Harris with 16 points and nine rebounds for the 76-year-old in the pre-season opener for two clubs.
Ben Simmons had 10 points and six assists for Philadelphia.
Jeff Teeg scored 18 for Boston. He scored 9 for 7 on a very hard night off some Celtics ground; Jalen Brown made his first shot, scoring 0 for the remaining 10, and Jason Tatum 4 for 13.
Peyton Pritchard had 12 of his 16 points for Boston in the fourth quarter. Tatum finished with 10 points.