James Harden demanded a trade from the Houston Rockets two years ago. His rationale at the time wasn’t totally obvious, and this week’s developments will not add any clarity to what he was thinking.
According to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Harden is now seriously considering returning to Houston once this season ends. Apparently his future hinges greatly on the Philadelphia 76ers’ ability to do anything of note in the playoffs. He put in a ton of work this summer, namely on his body. But thus far that hasn’t led to much in the way of tangible results. The Sixers are currently in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference with a 19-12 record.
“Harden is seriously considering a return to the Houston Rockets in free agency this July,” Wojnarowski wrote.
“… Harden and his inner circle have been openly weighing Houston in recent months, sources said, a remarkable possibility given that he requested and received a trade out of the franchise less than two years ago.”
So what has led to this sudden about face? Particularly given that, if Harden were to make the move, it would be his third team change in as many years?
“Harden has maintained something of a magnetic pull to Houston, drawn to the community, lifestyle and family there, sources said. After what would become relatively brief stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a move back to a rebuilding Rockets franchise would effectively represent comfort and familiarity over an immediate championship pursuit,” Wojnarowski added.
Yikes. So is it the clubs? It certainly sounds like it.
From a numbers standpoint, this can all happen fairly easily. Last summer Harden inked a two-year, $68.6 million deal with Philly that included a player option for 2023-24. That means he can be a free man this summer – should he so choose.
The Rockets will have more than enough cap space to accommodate Harden if he wants to come back.
Starting with his influence on his younger 76ers teammates and ending with the way him and Doc Rivers have never gotten on the same page, Harden’s time in Philadelphia has been rife with disappointment.
Him leaving after all this would just be icing on the cake.
Frankly, Harden looking for the exit now is pretty on brand. After all the brouhaha about how he was taking this season seriously and how he wasn’t partying in the summer (just chilling with his girl), he is now adding a ton of unnecessary chaos into the 76ers’ locker room.
There is a reason why his Brooklyn Nets teammates hated him.
Harden is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. His MVP etches his name into the history books.
Now that’s a Christmas party outfit. https://t.co/5MlkPfhKjd
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 25, 2022
But the man has some issues.
Where will he be playing this time next season?
Time will tell.