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James Harden says he wants to return to play, but ‘I want it to be safe’

James Harden arrives

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 02: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 02, 2020 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. New York Knicks defeated the Houston Rockets 125-123. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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Jae Crowder said something similar a few days back, he’s ready to return to the court but wants things to be safe.

Thursday, Houston’s James Harden echoed the same sentiment talking to Jabari Young of CNBC.

Harden said he would play games again without fans, but would feel comfortable returning when the pandemic has “calmed down all the way to a minimum...

“I want it to be safe,” said Harden when asked about returning. “I want it to be entertaining for the fans and players to get out there and compete. As soon as we can get this ramped up, I’m ready to go. I feel like the majority of the players feel the same way.”

In general, players want to get back on the court and play. That is both because they are competitive by nature and because getting the playoffs in will help the NBA’s bottom line when it comes to next season’s salary cap and the finances of the league (the players and NBA split the league’s basketball related income). The players also generally trust Adam Silver to make the best call among bad options.

However, players want it to be “safe” — and what’s safe for one player may not feel safe to another. For example, Utah’s Joe Ingles — who has a family, a pregnant wife, and a son with a weakened immune system — has said, “I am in no way willing to risk my children, and [his wife], and everything else, to go play basketball.” He is understandably far more risk-averse than a 20-year-old rookie might be.

As we near a decision on if and when the NBA might return, and as a timeline for that return takes form, the NBA still has a lot to work out. There’s a lot of safety measures yet to be put in place. Even then, it may not be enough for some players.

But the majority, such as Harden, are eager to get back to work.