Is James Harden plotting his return to the Houston Rockets if he enters free company in the summertime of 2023? It’s an actual chance, in line with a brand new report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Harden has a participant possibility for subsequent season after taking a $14 million pay lower to return to Philadelphia over the offseason. The 76ers have been among the many preseason favorites within the East, however they’re the No. 5 seed within the convention forward of their Christmas day recreation towards the New York Knicks after a 19-12 begin. Harden may look to return to Houston — who’s flushed with cap area — over the offseason if Philadelphia comes up quick within the playoffs, in line with Woj. The report additionally notes that Harden should still keep in Philadelphia if the Sixers have the kind of postseason success he’s on the lookout for.
This appears like such a jarring scoop from Woj as a result of Harden compelled his manner out of Houston lower than two years in the past. His stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia since have didn’t yield the deep playoff run he’s been hoping for. A transfer again to the Rockets seemingly wouldn’t put him in place to compete for a championship instantly, however it will permit him to doubtlessly receives a commission a max contract.
Harden spent one of the best years of his profession with the Houston Rockets, the place he powered eight consecutive playoff runs, two journeys to the convention finals, and received the 2018 MVP award. For all of Houston’s success within the Harden period, the franchise may by no means breakthrough to the NBA Finals and ultimately began to tear down the core round him. Harden noticed the writing on the wall and compelled his manner out, ultimately getting traded to the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 14, 2021 for a large bundle of future draft picks that included three first spherical draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and 4 first spherical choose swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) going to Houston.
Harden’s keep in Brooklyn barely lasted a yr earlier than he compelled his manner right into a commerce once more, this time as a result of he was upset with Kyrie Irving’s lack of availability following his refusal to get the Covid vaccine and the crew’s lack of success. Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 10, 2022 for a bundle that included Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and two first-round draft picks going to Brooklyn.
Harden not too long ago gave an interview with Yaron Weitzman the place he stated he modified the sport and the one factor his legacy is lacking is a championship. He compelled his manner out of Houston to place himself in a greater place to win a title, however each the Nets and Sixers got here up quick.
The Nets received just one playoff sequence in two playoff runs with Harden. The Sixers have been knocked out within the second spherical of the playoffs final yr by the Miami Warmth.
Harden is not one of many recreation’s greatest scorers at 33 years outdated, however he’s nonetheless a extremely productive level guard. Harden is averaging 21.4 factors and 10.9 assists per recreation this season in Philadelphia.
The Rockets are off to the worst begin within the Western Convention at 9-23 general. The crew has some good younger items in place, headlined by scoring guard Jalen Inexperienced, stretch ahead Jabari Smith Jr., large man Alperen Sengun, and power ahead Tari Eason. The Rockets may add one other dynamic expertise within the draft this season, doubtlessly even Victor Wembanyama, the 7’5 French tremendous prospect who will go No. 1 general. If the Rockets land Wembanyama within the draft lottery, Harden’s curiosity in Houston would definitely improve.
What the Rockets really want is some extent guard, and Harden would fill that void.
There are two swing components right here: 1) how far the 76ers advance within the playoffs, and a couple of) how excessive the Rockets land within the draft lottery. Whereas this report feels shocking, it isn’t laborious to consider Harden might not have loyalty to Philly after taking such an enormous pay lower this season.