It’s Been Reported That The Rockets And James Harden Have Serious Mutual Interest.
Reports indicate that the rumors about James Harden returning to the Houston Rockets are becoming increasingly likely to be true. Despite the Philadelphia 76ers’ potential for improvement, the possibility of Harden reuniting with his former team has gained traction throughout the season. According to sources, the Rockets expect a reunion with Harden in free agency. Harden’s interest in returning to Houston, where he has strong connections and is highly regarded, is said to be genuine. NBA executives also believe that Harden will return to the Rockets.
The Rockets Were Reportedly Asking Potential Coaching Hires About Their Feelings on Harden
Initially, the rumors of Harden returning to Houston were seen as a negotiating tactic to secure a maximum contract from the Sixers. However, it has become evident that Harden is willing to leave the Sixers, despite the departure of head coach Doc Rivers, who reportedly had a strained relationship with the star guard.
Prior to hiring Ime Udoka as their head coach, the Houston Rockets reportedly inquired with coaching candidates about their willingness to coach James Harden. This suggests that the Rockets had been considering a potential reunion with Harden for some time. With Houston expected to have approximately $60 million in salary-cap space this offseason, it aligns well with Harden’s intention to opt out of his $35.6 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and become a free agent.
Before hiring Ime Udoka on April 25, #HoustonRockets head coaching candidates were asked during the interview process for their opinion on coaching James Harden, according to sources.https://t.co/NFOB9pyxmc via @phillyinquirer
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) May 19, 2023
A Big Void in Philly
Harden’s value to the Sixers was evident as he led the league in assists, averaging 10.7 per game, while also serving as their
primary ball handler and playmaker. Considering Philadelphia’s lack of projected salary-cap space, they would struggle to adequately replace him through free agency. Given what the Sixers gave up in the trade to acquire Harden from the Brooklyn Nets on February 10, 2022—which included their deferred, unprotected first-round pick in the upcoming draft, as well as Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond—they cannot afford to let him walk away without receiving compensation.
Although the Rockets currently lack a roster capable of immediate success, they are considered the betting favorites to land Harden. It is expected that Houston will make moves to provide him with a stronger supporting cast, potentially involving trading their fourth overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. On the other hand, the Sixers now face the challenge of finding alternative solutions, as they lack the cap space and trade assets to acquire another star player. While a roster featuring Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey remains formidable, the absence of Harden’s playmaking will require the team to compensate in other areas.
Following his trade to the Brooklyn Nets in 2021, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta expressed that Harden is always welcome back in Houston. It appears that Harden will indeed be taking Fertitta up on his offer.
Source: Basketball Insider