Houston star James Harden was scratched from the Rockets’ game Saturday game against the Sacramento Kings less than an hour before tipoff because of a sprained right ankle.
Eric Gordon replaced Harden and scored 21 points, while Christian Wood finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who also beat the Kings 122-119 on New Year’s Eve.
Harden appeared to roll his ankle late in Thursday’s win over the Kings. He was spotted shooting around much earlier than usual ahead of Saturday’s game and likely was testing it out.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he first heard a few hours before tipoff that Harden’s ankle was bothering him enough that it might cause him to sit out the game.
“He was just going to see how it felt, and obviously it didn’t feel good enough for him to play,” Silas said after Houston’s victory. “For us to win this game without him is pretty special.”
Harden, the NBA’s scoring champion the past three seasons, is averaging a league-leading 37.0 points and 11.0 assists through three games.
The 31-year-old has been involved in countless trade rumors in the last couple of months, especially following his preseason holdout. Harden began the 2020-21 season with the Rockets, but rumors of his potential departure have yet to subside.