HOUSTON — Rockets guard James Harden returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured Dec. 31 against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden, who is coming back from a strained left hamstring, stepped onto the court, nailed a couple of corner 3-pointers and got quickly into the flow of warmups.

“It just feels good to be back out here around your teammates and that good energy and just hooping again,” Harden said. “Two and a half weeks felt like a very long time. I look back at it and just say it was something I needed mentally, physically and to just get my mind right. Obviously, my body is well. Hopefully I won’t have to go through that again.”

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni walked up to Harden and put his arm around his shoulder and shared a laugh after a couple of shots.

D’Antoni couldn’t confirm if Harden would play on Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves but said it would be probable if everything goes well in practice and based also on how Harden feels when he wakes up on Thursday.

“I think he’ll be good. I think he’ll be a little rusty and probably be on a minutes restriction around 24 or 25, I’m thinking,” D’Antoni said about when Harden does return. “I haven’t gotten the instructions yet. But that’s a normal case. A lot of it depends on him and how he feels, his wind and all of that. He’s James Harden, he’s going to play well and he’s going to be impactful.”

Prior to Wednesday’s practice, Harden said he is “as good as it can get” when asked if he was 100 percent.

“We’ll see how today goes,” he said. “First time practicing. We’ll just take it for what it is, try to work, try to go through practice without any pain or any discomfort. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”

The Rockets have gone 4-3 without Harden, who is averaging 32.3 points per game this season.

“What’s exciting now is that James is coming back,” Rockets guard Trevor Ariza said. “He’s been out for a long time. I know he’s been itching to get back on the court and we’re excited to have him back.”

While Harden was out, the five-time All-Star, was able see the game from a different perspective.

“Just to sit back and be a spectator of the game,” Harden said. “I’m always in the game. I’m always playing and in the grind. These 2 1/2 weeks made me sit back and realize never take that for granted. Just kind of look back as a fan perspective watching the games on TV and just embracing the challenge.”