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What is going on down in Houston? And should the Nets care?

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Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Five Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It’s been a crazy day in Houston ... Okay two or three days. For the first time, a Rockets exec used the H-word, as in “holdout” when talking about James Harden’s absence from training camp. The NBA’s leading scorer was last seen in Las Vegas...

Before that, he had posted images on Instagram that showed him attending rapper Lil Baby’s birthday party at a strip club in Atlanta, In both cases, Harden wasn’t wearing a face mask, an apparent violation of the NBA’s COVID protocols.

And whether intentional or not, he embarrassed his new head coach who first said Harden would show up Sunday night for an individual workout then had to back down when the perennial All-NBA player didn’t show.

On Sunday, Stephen Silas said simply of Harden’s rationale, “That’s a question you’re going to have to ask him when he gets here. We’re looking forward to having him here and getting to his individual workout.“

Then when he didn’t show, Silas had to offer another revision... saying Harden was slowed by COVID protocols.

“I’m not exactly sure what hoops he has to jump through in order to practice with the team,” said Silas, who was hired to replace Mike D’Antoni, now with Brooklyn.

“I would just say I want him here, and I want him to be a big part of what we’re doing. I’m excited to coach him and have him be a part of what we just had out there with a good practice, with a bunch of guys who are working hard on both ends of the floor and had a good vibe about them.”

He added, “He’s not here and he has a reason, but that’s on him to tell whoever what the reason is.”

Meanwhile, both Harden’s mother (who’s also his manager and agent) and his sister defended him on social media and, in the process, confirmed he wants out of Houston.

“He is doing what is best for his career,” Monja Willis, his mother, said on Instagram. “Please pay attention and understand. He has worked hard every time he suited up for his job, giving 210 percent. He ask(ed) for a chance to get a ring, that’s it. Anyone in their right mind in this bus(iness) would want that.”

She didn’t mention her son’s oft-reported desire to join the Nets (which could have triggered a big fine). but the manner in which Harden has acted is classic. Jason Kidd had a migraine and sat on the bench at Madison Square Garden in 2007. James Harden partied without a mask in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Nothing had to be said.

How does this effect the Nets? Word out of Houston is that the Rockets are not backing down on their trade demand — a young star and multiple picks — and would still like to see Harden paired with the newly acquired John Wall ... as well as DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood.

On Monday afternoon, Steve Nash once again said, as had his boss Sean Marks, that he likes the roster he’s been working out in Brooklyn.

“I love our guys and hopefully they all feel very valued, wanted, and respected,” Nash told reporters via Zoom. “We have so many guys that bring so much to the table so when I am in the gym with them every day, I feel fortunate. Hopefully they feel that and they don’t feel like we are looking out the window at greener pastures because we love what we have here.

“Hopefully, our behavior every day admits that and guys feel comfortable, valued, supported, and striving or something individually and collectively.”

Caris LeVert, who was previously asked about whether trade rumors affected him, dismissed a new round of questions about Harden’s holdout.

“I mean I don’t really have anything to do with James Harden not going to practice,” he said. “That doesn’t concern me. I’m focused on the team, the Nets, myself, trying to be the best I can be so that we can be better as a team. I don’t really focus on all of that stuff. That really has nothing to do with me.”

On Monday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski reported on ESPN that in fact the Nets and Rockets have been incommunicado for “weeks” and the initial talks “didn’t go anywhere.”

In other words: Houston, YOU have a problem.