Presented by Santa Philadelphia 76ers A very strange one. An hour before their Christmas Day start New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported James Harden is seriously considering a reunion Houston Rockets The following summer, he decided to decline his $35.6 million player option for the 2023–24 season and did not re-sign with the Sixers.
Harden is 20-point, 21-assist, 11-rebound performance 119-114 win vs Los Angeles Clippers On Friday. He signed a two-year, $68.8 million contract with Philadelphia in July. The Sixers entered Christmas on a seven-game winning streak, but, according to ESPN, he was still drawn to Houston for a variety of reasons.
Harden and his inner circle have openly weighed Houston in recent weeks and months, sources say, a significant prospect given that he requested and received a trade from the franchise two years ago.
Despite being forced to leave the Rockets in January 2021, Harden had a magnetic pull to Houston, drawn to the community, lifestyle and family there, sources said. After relatively brief stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a return to a rebuilding Rockets franchise could effectively reflect comfort and familiarity in the immediate championship pursuit.
All of Harden’s history and relationship with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and CEO Todd Brown, his working relationships with Embiid and coach Doc Rivers remain a work in progress. The Sixers gave up significant assets to acquire Harden, and he is expected to prioritize re-signing to a new contract for the second straight summer.
Harden had 29 points, 13 assists, four rebounds, four steals and a block against the Knicks as the Sixers won 119-112 and improved their record to 20-12. During the game, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported Harden had an eye on Houston when he was a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
Later, Harden briefly addressed the rumor.
“I’m here,” Harden told reporters. Sixers wire via Guy Carlin. “We’re playing well, I don’t know where that statement came from, but I’m happy to be here and we’re playing well. We’re just continuing to improve.”
Before the game, Harden was in no mood to discuss the matter. from Philadelphia InquirerKeith Bombay:
Asked before the game about the report, Harden responded: “What report?”
Harden said he didn’t know what the reporter was talking about and became agitated when asked about the rumors about a move back to Houston.
“Why are you asking me about this on Christmas, man?” he said. “You didn’t say Merry Christmas or anything. You asked me about something I didn’t even have… I didn’t answer. I didn’t see anything.”
Asked later why he had to ask the question, Harden replied: “I don’t talk before games right now.”
Harden hasn’t hit a six in a year. He arrived in a blockbuster trade in February, when Philadelphia sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks to the Nets. That trade followed the Houston to Brooklyn trade in January 2021. In both instances, Harden requested a trade. When he re-signed with the Sixers, he picked up enough money to make the roster in free agency. Philadelphia also signed former Rockets PJ Tucker and Danuel House in October. The league picked up its 2023 and 2024 second-round picks After an investigation, it was revealed that it had been in discussions with Tucker and House before it was allowed.
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Recently Fox Sports feature by Yaron Weitzman, Sixers president Daryl Morey said Harden and Embiid “speak more than any superstar combo I’ve ever had together.” In the same story, Harden said, “Honestly, all I’m missing is a championship.” According to ESPN, Harden is months away from leaving a team that was all-in on winning a championship to rejoin the team he left two years ago, which now has a 9-23 record, which is abysmal. West, and is in the bottom four of the league.
Harden turns 34 in August. Jalen Green, 20, Jabari Smith Jr., 21, and Alberon Sengun, 20, comprise the Rockets’ current core. These timelines don’t seem to align in any way, but we’ve seen something like this before: when LeBron James returned. Cleveland Cavaliers In 2014, Kyrie Irving was 22 years old and Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson were both 23 years old.
James didn’t return to Cleveland, just to play with a bunch of kids. The Cavs traded 21-year-old Anthony Bennett and 18-year-old Andrew Wiggins — at the time, the last two No. 1 picks in the draft — for Kevin Love. A few months later, JR. They traded Waiters in a deal that brought back Smith and Iman Shumpert. If Harden wants to return in a similar fashion, the Rockets should ask themselves whether or not they want to get back into the beard business, but whether or not they want to abandon their rebuild and try to build an immediate contender. The higher they pick in the 2023 draft, the more interesting this debate will be.
In 18 games this season, Harden is averaging 21.8 points, 11.1 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 38.1 minutes, a 25.6 percent usage rate and a 58.9 percent true shooting percentage. Had he played enough games to qualify, he would have led the league in assists.