February 6, 2023

Report: James Harden ‘seriously considering’ return to Houston in free agency

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If you thought your Christmas was going to be completely normal in the world of Philadelphia sports. Well, you were wrong.

Just about an hour before the 76ers’ matchup with the New York Knicks, ESPN’s Adrian  Wojnarowski dropped a bomb:

Here are some of the details from Wojnarowski’s report:

All-Star guard James Harden is seriously considering a return to the Houston Rockets in free agency this July — if he decides against a new deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, sources told ESPN. 

Harden and his inner-circle have been openly weighing Houston in recent weeks and months, sources said, a remarkable possibility given that he requested and received a trade out of the franchise less than two years ago. 

His future with the 76ers remains a fluid proposition, one that’s been buoyed with seven straight victories on the way into a Christmas Day meeting with the New York Knicks (noon ET on ABC and ESPN). Harden is on a winning and productive roll with All-NBA center Joel Embiid, and the state of that partnership and the Sixers’ postseason success could well be telltale factors in how Harden proceeds past this season. Experiencing a deep playoff run in a rabid, hungry Philadelphia marketplace could positively impact his thinking — just as the fallout of an early exit could too.

For all of Harden’s history and connection with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown, his working relationships with Embiid and coach Doc Rivers resemble something closer to a work in progress. The Sixers gave up significant assets to acquire Harden and he’s expected to remain a priority to re-sign on a new deal for a second consecutive summer.

ESPN

The vibes of the Sixers seemed high during their seven-game winning streak and Harden and Joel Embiid’s connection was increasing, but I guess not.

What I would believe for the Sixers is this does not change anything. They should not be surprised that Harden could have plenty of options in the summer. The Sixers are going to continue this season with Harden and Embiid as the x-factors of the team and are hopeful they’ll be able to secure a long-term deal with Harden when the season is over.

If Harden does decide to leave the Sixers to go back to Houston, who are currently 9-23 and one of the worst teams in the league with few promising prospects, it makes all his quotes about putting winning first and seeking championships ironic and hypocritical. He is of course allowed to prefer one place or another for any reason, but going to a Rockets team that is lightyears away from success definitely does not match his statements about what keeps him going.

This may be a good thing for the Sixers, however. Back in the day, players stayed loyal to a team whether good or bad. Of course, things have changed, but Harden is a prime example of why players, especially in the NBA, are greedy for money. He knows Houston will pay him. This also shows Harden is not a winner. He wants to go to a team that flat-out is not good. This also opens up more opportunities for Tyrese Maxey, and the Sixers have been great with DeAnthony Melton in the starting-five.

It is an interesting situation that I did not thing we would get into until April.

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