Adam Silver On Not Suspending James Harden: ‘It’s Christmas. It Was A First Offense’

The Houston Rockets became the first team to have to postpone a game this season after they were unable to field a roster of eight players for their opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. Seven players were out due to a gathering for haircuts in which three players had positive or inconclusive tests and four others had to be isolated due to contact tracing.

Houston also had a player out with injury, and when adding in James Harden being ruled ineligible for the game for having violated the league’s health and safety party by going to what he described on Instagram as an “event [not a strip club].” Harden was fined $50,000 and will not face a suspension, and will be available to play on Saturday if he continues to test negative through Friday as it was determined he needed four negatives consecutively from Tuesday on.

If that felt like a light punishment for putting his team at risk for spread, you weren’t alone in having questions. Given the severity of the situation, a $50,000 fine for someone who recently turned down $50 million a year doesn’t exactly seem like the thing that will dissuade this from happening again. Adam Silver was asked about that on The Jump on Thursday and his response was not what most anticipated hearing.

For one, the first offense part is technically correct but also this is far from the first video of Harden at a club that’s come out in recent weeks — he rather famously missed the start of camp while training and partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas. However, saying “it’s Christmas” is just bad optics. This isn’t a situation where the time of year should be any factor in adjudicating punishment of violating a health and safety policy in the midst of a pandemic.

If Silver had just said it was a first offense and it’s escalating punishments that are all agreed upon through bargaining with the union, that would’ve sufficed — even if some wouldn’t have been satisfied. Everything else he said makes sense. The game being postponed helped Harden because he would’ve lost a game check (which for him is nearly a quarter million) had it been played. The $50,000 fine is the most he can fine him as commissioner without Harden being able to appeal it. The Christmas note, however, was a misstep from Silver, making it seem as though the league is being lenient because of the holiday season.