James Harden

Rockets star guard Russell Westbrook tests positive for coronavirus

Rockets star guard Russell Westbrook tests positive for coronavirus

So far, the NBA’s bubble has yet to turn up a positive coronavirus test. But getting to Orlando seems to be an obstacle for certain players.

On Monday morning, Houston Rockets superstar Russell Westbrook turned to twitter to announce that he has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine.

“I tested positive for covid-19 prior to my teams departure to Orlando,” Westbrook announced. “I’m currently feeling well, quarantined, and looking forward to rejoining my teammates when I am cleared. Thank you for the well wishes and continued support. Please take this virus seriously. Be safe. Mask up! #whynot”

Westbrook, along with teammate James Harden, have both been absent from the Orlando bubble. Coach Mike D’Antoni skirted around the issue when speaking to the media.

"These are things that people are dealing with, we're not going to get in why, why not,” D’Antoni said. “They're on their way."

The Rockets coach thought both of his star players would arrive around mid-week. Whether that is still the case is unknown at this time.

The Sacramento Kings are slated to play the Rockets in their sixth game of the restart on August 9, which is still nearly a month away. If either Westbrook or Harden were to miss that contest, it would definitely change the odds for the contest.

At the time of the shutdown, Westbrook was averaging 27.5 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game. The nine-time All-Star and former league MVP is in his first season playing with the Rockets after eleven seasons in Oklahoma City.

There is no word on why Harden is absent from the bubble, but like Westbrook, he is a key to the Rockets success. The 2017-18 NBA MVP was leading the league in scoring at 34.4 points per game when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

[RELATED: Kings get adrenaline pumping in first full-contact practice in Orlando]

If Westbrook or Harden miss substantial time during the restart, it would severely impact the Rockets chances of advancing deep into the playoffs. Either way, they are missing valuable practice time as the teams attempt to piece their squads back together on the fly in Orlando.

Houston is also waiting on the return of Luc Mbah a Moute, who was signed to replace Thabo Sefalosha. Sefalosha opted out of the restart.

Why Bill Simmons easily picks Steph Curry over James Harden in 2009 re-draft

Why Bill Simmons easily picks Steph Curry over James Harden in 2009 re-draft

Steph Curry was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

James Harden went No. 3 overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

On Thursday's episode of "The Lowe Post" podcast, ESPN's Zach Lowe and The Ringer's Bill Simmons re-drafted the 2009 class.

Here's how the conversation went:

Lowe: "I gave you the number one pick in the draft because I'm a nice person. Also, I get to foist the tough decision onto you and I get to make the easy decision. So who's your first pick?"

Simmons: "I mean, it's not a tough decision. It's Stephen Curry. I get somebody who was a back-to-back MVP. I get the greatest shooter of all time. I get somebody who basically is a 50-40-90 guy for his entire career.

"And most important -- I get a culture guy. There's been a handful of guys in the history of the league that you can just build your team around and it was gonna be OK. He's this generation's (Tim) Duncan. The best possible teammate.

"The fact that the Warriors situation with KD (Kevin Durant) didn't really fall apart until midway through Year 3 is almost a credit to the culture they had there to begin with, because it should have fallen apart in Year 2 and it didn't."

Over a five-year span from 2015 to 2019, Curry and the Warriors eliminated Harden and the Rockets from the playoffs four times.

In the 2015 Western Conference finals, Curry averaged 31.2 points and 5.6 assists, while shooting 51.5 percent overall and 49.1 percent from deep. Harden averaged 28.4 points and 7.8 assists, while shooting 46.5 percent overall and 38.7 percent from deep

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Over the last five games of the 2018 Western Conference finals, Curry averaged 28.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.8 turnovers, while shooting just under 48 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from deep. Harden averaged 26.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 5.2 turnovers, while shooting under 39 percent from the field and 20.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Harden put up better numbers overall than Curry in the 2019 Western Conference semifinals. But in the fourth quarter of a pivotal Game 5 -- with Kevin Durant in the locker room -- Steph racked up 12 points and two assists (with zero turnovers), while Harden recorded five points, one assist and one turnover.

And then in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Houston (without KD), Curry registered 23 points and didn't turn the ball over once, while Harden scored 12 points and committed four turnovers.

[RELATED: Wrong again: Perkins claims Harden is better than Steph]

Simmons had one more point to make when comparing the two.

"I think there's gonna be a really interesting second piece of his career post-prime, when he's still gonna be awesome -- just in a different way," he said of Curry. "I look at Harden going forward -- I'm not sure how his game ages with the kind of physicality he's endured with all the hits. I just wonder what that looks like.

"So for me, it was actually a pretty easy decision."

Actually, Simmons had one more thing to say about the only unanimous MVP in NBA history.

"I continue to think Steph is the most underrated guy of the last 15 years," he said. "Even with other players (they say), 'He's good, he's not that good.' It's just bizarre to me."

Simmons for the win.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

Why Rockets GM Daryl Morey believes he has let James Harden down

Why Rockets GM Daryl Morey believes he has let James Harden down

Over a five-season span from 2015 to 2019, the Warriors eliminated the Houston Rockets in the playoffs four times.

James Harden and his squads just haven't been able to get over the hump, and a big reason for that is because they happened to have a dynasty standing in their way.

Speaking of Harden -- Rockets general manager Daryl Morey came to his defense during a recent appearance on the "Pomp Podcast" with Anthony Pompliano.

“I don't think the media is super fair with him," Morey said. "Part of it is he has a tight circle of people that he trusts. With those people who he knows have his best interest at heart, he's very gregarious, very open, very smart -- just this great guy. And with everyone else, he's not the opposite -- he's just reserved. 

"He’s not someone who is going to be a big media guy or things like that. So, I think that hurts him a little bit. But I can I can tell you privately he’s like a basketball genius. He’s a great quality human being.

"We’ve worked together for eight or nine years now and I couldn’t have a better partner to try and win a title with. And in fact, most days I wake up saying, 'I’ve let him down because I haven’t gotten him the right players to win a title.' "

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

That's the admirable thing to say, and it's some great GM'ing from Morey to take responsibility for the Rockets not winning a championship yet with "The Beard" running the show.

You also can't put all the blame on Harden for Houston coming up short. However, he has had a couple really bad performances in playoff elimination games -- which helps explain why Morey believes the media is not "super fair" towards him:

In Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference finals against the Warriors, Harden had 14 points (2-for-11 FG) with five assists and 12 turnovers.

In Game 6 of the 2017 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, Harden scored 10 points (2-for-11 FG), notched seven assists and committed six turnovers.

Additionally, the 2017-18 NBA MVP went 2-for-13 from deep vs. Golden State in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals, and he turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter of Game 6 vs. the Kevin Durant-less Warriors in the 2019 Western Conference semifinals.

[RELATED: Harden: Not knocking Steph, but 'I deserved the MVP']

In the end, there are several reasons the Rockets haven't captured the Larry O'Brien trophy since they acquired Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder in October 2012.

And one thing we know for sure is that if Houston doesn't win it all in Orlando this year, it won't be because of the Warriors.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram