Rockets game off, Harden fined for breach

·2-min read

The James Harden soap opera in Houston now comes with a postponed NBA season opener for the Rockets - and a $50,000 ($A66,000) fine for the league's leading scorer.

Houston's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night was scrapped after coronavirus cases and Harden's violation of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight players available.

It was a dispiriting blow to the NBA on just the second night of an uncertain season launching with the pandemic still raging.

The NBA announced the postponement in a statement that said three Rockets players had returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive and that four other players were quarantined because of contract tracing.

The statement also said Harden was unavailable for the game because of a violation of health and safety protocols after video of the disgruntled star surfaced on social media where he was without a mask at a crowded party in a private event space Monday night.

The league later announced the fine for Harden, saying the protocols prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments.

Already a distraction to the team amid weeks of rumours that he wants to be traded, Harden's latest move potentially threatened the health and safety of his team and kept the Rockets from beginning their season.

Houston have 16 rostered players; with seven dealing with tests or quarantine and one injured, that would have left eight eligible players, which is the league minimum to start a game.

Harden's unavailability lowered Houston's total of available players to seven.

The All-Star's since-deleted Instagram post explaining why he attended the event in question would certainly suggest that he was in violation of those rules.

In the post he wrote: "One thing after another. I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in a position of success and now it's a problem. Everyday it's something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can't. The real people always end up on top."

But for now the eight-time All-Star is on the shelf after admitting to breaking the rules set forth in the protocols.

Harden, according to the protocols, may now be ordered into quarantine and could lose about $280,000 ($A370,000) for each game missed.

Houston's next scheduled game is Saturday at Portland.