Report: James Harden out vs. Lakers with Clippers debut possibly coming against Knicks

Peter Dewey
5 Min Read
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden reportedly will sit out the team’s matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

Harden, who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, has not played in a game yet this season.

The Clippers traded away Nicolas Batum, K.J. Martin, Marcus Morris, Robert Covington and draft picks to receive Harden, P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrušev from Philadelphia. The move certainly makes the Clippers an intriguing team in the Western Conference this season.

“James Harden will not be playing tonight,” NBA insider Shams Charania said. “I’m told the plan is for him to get practice over the next few days – get some reps in with the team. And then the target is as soon as Monday’s game at the Garden against the [New York] Knicks. I think that’s the likeliest possibility – the soonest that he could make his debut for the Clippers along with Kawhi Leonard, along with Paul George.

“So, the plan is to get him ramped up. I think he has been working out individually. He’s been doing a lot on his own away from the Sixers for the last several weeks. We know he’s only gone through one five-on-five scrimmage in the last month, and that came all the way on October 7. So, there’s still time over the next few days for him to get some competitive runs in.”

It seems like the Clippers are trying to be smart about throwing Harden into the rotation with the team. It makes sense that the team wants to ease him in, as the Clippers are looking to make a roster of Harden, Leonard, George and Russell Westbrook work.

Adding Harden to the Clippers-Lakers rivalry is yet another thing for fans to be excited for this season, but they’ll have to wait until at least the second time that the teams face off this season. The Clippers and Lakers play on Wednesday night and then don’t play each other again until Jan. 7, 2024.

During the 2022-23 season, Harden – a 10-time All-Star – averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

He helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs, but the team came up short in that series, losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games.

With the Clippers, Harden provides the team with some insurance in case one of their oft-injured stars (George and Leonard) goes down this season. The Clippers didn’t have George for their entire playoff series with the Phoenix Suns last season, and Leonard missed part of the series too after going down with an injury.

A former MVP like Harden could help pick up the slack for the Clippers on nights when George or Leonard – or both – are out of the lineup. Not only that, but Harden has shown he’s a capable facilitator in recent seasons, which could help elevate the games of both George and Leonard.

For the Lakers, it’s good that Harden’s debut won’t come against them on Wednesday night. The Clippers are already going to be facing a tough turnaround after they played the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

The team doesn’t have much depth on the second night of a back-to-back since it traded away several players in the Harden deal.

The Lakers received some good injury news on Tuesday, as star LeBron James was off the injury report after he was listed as probable for the team’s most recent game against Orlando.

The Clippers and Lakers are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. PST on Wednesday.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.