James Harden mulling free agent return to Rockets

All-Star guard James Harden is severely contemplating a return to the Houston Rockets in free company this July — if he decides in opposition to a brand new cope with the Philadelphia 76ers, sources advised ESPN.

Harden and his interior circle have been brazenly weighing Houston in current months, sources mentioned, a exceptional chance on condition that he requested and acquired a commerce out of the franchise lower than two years in the past.

His future with the 76ers stays a fluid proposition, one which has been buoyed with eight straight victories, together with a 119-112 win over the New York Knicks on Christmas. Harden is on a productive roll with All-NBA middle Joel Embiid, and the state of that partnership and the Sixers’ postseason success may effectively be telltale elements in how Harden proceeds previous this season. Experiencing a deep playoff run in a rabid, hungry Philadelphia market may positively impression his pondering — simply because the fallout of an early exit may, too.

Harden signed a two-year, $68.6 million contract with the Sixers, together with a participant choice for 2023-24 that permits him to reenter free company this summer time. The Sixers are 19-12, fifth within the East and count on to return burgeoning star Tyrese Maxey within the coming week.

Regardless of forcing his means out of the Rockets in January 2021, Harden has maintained one thing of a magnetic pull to Houston, drawn to the neighborhood, way of life and household there, sources mentioned. After what would develop into comparatively temporary stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a transfer again to a rebuilding Rockets franchise would successfully characterize consolation and familiarity over an instantaneous championship pursuit.

For subsequent summer time, the Rockets are flush with wage cap area and an urge for food to make important enchancment within the standings. Rockets officers must consider how they consider Harden’s arrival would profit the event of its younger core of expertise, together with Jalen Inexperienced, Jabari Smith and Kevin Porter Jr., however his stature and expertise nonetheless make him a beautiful proposition.

In his post-Houston stops with Embiid and Kevin Durant, Harden has continued to evolve as a pass-first guard. He is main the NBA with 10.9 assists per sport — together with a career-high 21 in a victory over the LA Clippers on Friday.

Harden spent eight-plus All-Star seasons with the Rockets, a stretch that included a 2018 MVP award and a visit to the Western Convention finals. Harden gained three straight scoring titles with the Rockets and ranks second to Hakeem Olajuwon in all-time franchise scoring — and first in assists.

After biking by means of hand-picked co-stars together with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, Harden grew to become disenchanted with the Rockets — and finally the Nets, too. The Sixers traded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and two future first-round picks to the Nets as a part of a bundle to amass Harden in February.

For all of Harden’s historical past and reference to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown, his working relationships with Embiid and coach Doc Rivers resemble one thing nearer to a piece in progress. The Sixers gave up important property to amass Harden, and he is anticipated to stay a precedence to re-sign on a brand new deal for a second consecutive summer time.