ROCKET LAUNCH

The Beard is back!

Rockets James Harden
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

At 8:38 pm on Tuesday, it was confirmed that Harden had made it to Orlando, Florida. After sitting a couple of days out because of the protocol, Harden was able practice on Thursday.

Harden leads the league in scoring by averaging 34.4 points per game. The NBA's bubble has Harden ranked number four on Orlando's campus. Harden coming back to practice has caused the intensity to go up. The Rockets love Harden's leadership and communication.

"It changes everything. He's our captain. He runs the ship. Intensity goes up. Level of play goes up," P.J. Tucker said. "He raises the stakes every time he steps on the floor. That's what we love about him. That's what we love about him. Win, lose, draw, we know what we're going to get from 13."

Everything about Harden looked the same in practice according to Rockets' Ben McLemore. Harden loved giving his teammates a hard time in practice by challenging and trash talking them.

"The world knows, no matter what's going on, James Harden loves to hoop," as Harden told the media. "In practice, I was doing a lot of trash talking, which is usual. PJ, he's a dog. He brings the same intensity."

His main objective is getting this team championship ready. Harden wants the same intensity from each player on the Rockets every practice. As the leader of this team, he holds himself accountable.

Harden even touched on social justice issues and George Floyd. He loved the protest that happened in the city of Houston. Harden wants to make sure the name he chooses for the back of his jersey is thought out carefully.

"The way the city rallied, it was amazing. I think the world saw it. How so many people could come together. Obliviously it was for a tragic reason. The marching and everything we're standing for is very powerful," Harden said. "I'm in the process of figuring out if I'm going to put a message on my back or another to deliver my message, but somehow my message is going to get across."

The Rockets first game is against the Dallas Mavericks on July 31.

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Who's really calling the shots? Composite Getty Image.

Who is actually determining how much Jose Abreu is playing right now? Is it Joe Espada or is someone telling him from the top of the organization to play Abreu and not take him out of clutch moments?

Also, could Espada be sending a message to the front office by giving them a good look at how bad he is, and how much he's hurting the team with regular playing time?

ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham makes that case in the video above, but his radio partner Joel Blank isn't quite buying it.

Don't miss the video above for the full conversation!

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