James Harden arrives for a drama-free day two of training camp
FORT COLLINS, CO - Everyone moved a little faster on Wednesday than they did on Tuesday.
James Harden was in the building, joining his teammates in Moby Arena on the second day of training camp.
The Sixers shared photos of the supposedly disgruntled Harden participating in drills on their Twitter account. But, photos don't capture context.
So, when the text message came through that the media was permitted in the gym where the team was practicing, everyone moved quickly.
The situation, the potential of what was waiting to be seen in the gym and publicized for those following along across the country, carried so much curiosity and intrigue that everyone walked right past Joel Embiid as he exited the facility at the same door through which reporters entered.
"What's up, guys?", he offered in passing, with a fist bump or two. "Hey, Jo," some politely offered back.
That was all.
As big as the reigning MVP is, the dominating story of the day was bigger.
Except, Harden was nowhere to be found. He vanished before anyone beyond the gym's doors had a chance to see him.
As far as anyone there was willing to say, there was no disruption. There was nothing unprofessional. Harden, by all accounts, just came in as if everything were normal and went to work with his teammates.
"James was out there and participating and did a good job," Nick Nurse said.
Harden participated in "just about all of it," according to the head coach.
"We're still ramping up a few guys. But, yeah, he was just about in everything," Nurse said.
Talking heads theorized that Harden would show up out of shape as a passive-aggressive way of conveying his dissatisfaction that a trade has yet to materialize. Others theorize that Harden will, at some point, complain of an injury just significant enough to warrant not playing for Philadelphia.
"Ramping up" is a buzz phrase you might associate with someone who is out of shape or working their way back from injury
In terms of what that ramp-up process looks like for Harden, Nurse insisted that the star point guard looks good. "I just think it's always in kind of coordination with strength and medical and the player. How fast they're going to go, get all the way through there," he said.
"Like I said, he looked good, participated in majority of it anyway. Looked like, physically, in good shape."
Harden did not address the elephant in the room with his teammates. He did talk to Nurse before practice.
The head coach expects Harden to be present with the group for the remainder of training camp. Every indication is that Harden is there to stay, Nurse says. But, he was careful not to promise anything.
Tobias Harris agreed with Nurse, remarking that Harden looked great. He was very happy to see his teammate.
As far as the veteran forward is concerned, the Harden situation - what it has been and what it may become - is purely business.
"We're all grown men here. So, everybody understands the business of the game of basketball at this point," Harris said.
He doesn't find it necessary that Harden addresses the team. To Harris, Harden's participation is addressing the team.
"His participation, in my opinion, is addressing that he's here and his attitude and energy today allowed everybody to understand that he wants to go out here and compete with us and get stuff done," Harris said.
"In my opinion, that's all that really matters, is his energy and effort and towards myself and all our teammates."
Harden didn't direct any of his displeasure towards teammates, according to Harris. Everybody on that court understands that Harden's grievance lies in his business with management, not with the people on the floor with him.
Reserve wing Danuel House Jr. kept his comments on Harden much shorter. "Oh, feels good to have the whole team here participating in training camp," House said when asked if it felt good to have Harden around on Wednesday.
"Great," he said with a smile when asked how Harden looked.
Reserve big man Paul Reed was excited to have his big brother back. "It was cool, it was cool. You know, James is like a big brother to all of us. So, it was cool to have him out there," Reed said.
He took the "James looked good" baton passed down by Nurse, Harris, and House, too. "He looked good to me. That altitude is crazy out here, so he handled it good," Reed opined.
Harden, by all accounts, played the protagonist role quite well in act one. But, there's more than one act in this drama.