"Right now, I'm just focused on being here," Harden said. "Today was good, yesterday felt really good being out there for the first time since the bubble. I haven't really had an opportunity to do a lot of 5-on-5 work."
"For my first time being out there, I felt pretty good."
Next ... what was he doing in ATL and Sin City when his team expected him to show up to camp??
"I was just training," Harden said.
When pressed on what exactly he was training for, The Beard simply replied -- "The start of the NBA season."
As for why exactly he couldn't do that in Houston with the rest of his teammates??
"Just my personal trainers," Harden said.
As we previously reported, JH was spotted celebrating the rapper's birthday in ATL while his teammates were in Houston to prepare for the season ... gifting Lil Baby a $300k bag, Richard Mille watch and wads of cash.
Harden then took the party to Drai's nightclub in Vegas Sunday, Dec. 6 ... hours after he reportedly told the Rockets he would be at camp earlier that day.
Harden's actions drew criticism from ex-NBA player Stephen Jackson ... who called him out for "chasing rappers" instead of helping first-year head coach Stephen Silas.
Harden finally showed up on Dec. 8 ... and eventually played in his first preseason game on Tuesday, scoring 12 points in 21 minutes.