James Harden has been in the news a lot lately.
With the drama that he wants out of Houston to partying at a strip club for a rapper's birthday to the Rockets first game of the season being delayed because of COVID-19 protocol safety measures, Harden is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Harden was seen at a strip club recently celebrating the birthday of rapper Da Baby earlier this month and was at an indoor party without a mask on this past Monday.
Both are violations of the NBA's health and safety protocols, which prohibits players from going to social functions that have more than 15 people.
The Rockets first regular season game was delayed after three Rockets players had returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive and that four other players were forced to quarantine because of contract tracing.
Harden was fined $50,000 for violating health and safety protocols, which is a drop in the bucket for a player making $38M this season. That's .0012% of his salary, for the math enthusiasts out there.
But, why did commissioner Adam Silver go so light on Harden?
Well, because it's Christmas...
"The precedent is that discipline gets ratcheted up," Silver said in an interview with ESPN. "Frankly, to your point, it's the limit of my authority under the collective bargaining agreement. In a way he got lucky because if the game had taken place and he were unavailable because of his own actions, he would have missed a game and a paycheck. So, it was a little bit of luck there. I'd say, also, we're in the beginning of these protocols and it seems fair in this instance."
"But, it's Christmas."
But also, it's James Harden. It's seems hard to believe that the league wouldn't try to come down harder on a player that isn't as high-profile as James Harden to make an example. But, the NBA needs James Harden to play.
And also, there now seems to be a low standard of precedent for punishment should a player violate COVID protocols.
This goes in stark contrast to the 158 page memo sent to teams outlining COVID protocols and penalties which threatened stiff punishments for violating such safety measures. Among the penalties threatened were fines as well as suspensions for individual players found to be in violation and “repeat offenders may be subject to enhanced discipline.”
So, Silver could just be working in the confines of the agreement, but vague words like "may" leave violations up to interpretation. And it's hard to interpret Harden's violation as anything but selective favoritism.
Harden will be available to play against the Trail Blazers Saturday night.
That is if he can stay out of trouble in Portland.