Harden open to return to Houston in free agency

All-Star guard James Harden He is seriously considering returning to the Houston Rockets in free agency this July if he decides not to sign a new deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, sources told ESPN.

Harden and his inner circle have been openly considering Houston in recent weeks and months, the sources added, a notable possibility given that he requested and received a trade away from the franchise less than two years ago.

His future with the 76ers remains a fluid proposition, fueled by seven straight wins en route to a Christmas Day game with the New York Knicks (noon ET on ABC and ESPN). Harden is on a winning and productive streak with the All-NBA center Joel Embiidand the status of that partnership and the Sixers’ postseason success could well be tell-tale factors in how Harden progresses this season.

Harden signed a two-year, $68.6 million contract with the Sixers, including a player option for 2023-24 that allows him to re-enter free agency this summer. The Sixers are 19-12, fifth in the East and hope to return to the rising star Tyrese Maxey next week.

Despite forcing himself out of the Rockets in January 2021, Harden has maintained something of a magnetic attraction to Houston, drawn to the community, lifestyle and family there, the sources said. After what would become relatively brief stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, returning to a rebuilding Rockets franchise would effectively represent comfort and familiarity over an immediate championship quest.

Going into next summer, the Rockets are flush with salary cap space and an “appetite” for a significant upgrade in the rankings. Rockets officials will need to assess how they believe Harden’s arrival would benefit the development of their young core of talent, including Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Y Kevin Porter Jr.., but his stature and talent still make him an attractive proposition.

Harden spent more than eight All-Star seasons with the Rockets, including a 2018 MVP award and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Harden won three straight scoring titles with the Rockets and ranks second behind Hakeem Olajuwon in all-time franchise scoring, and first in assists.

After going through handpicked co-stars including Dwight Howard, chris paul Y Russell Westbrook, Harden became disillusioned with the Rockets and eventually the Nets as well. The Sixers traded to Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and two future first-round picks to the Nets as part of a package to acquire Harden in February.

For all the history and Harden’s connection to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown, his relationships with Embiid and coach Doc Rivers resemble something closer to a job. in progress. The Sixers gave up significant assets to acquire Harden and he is expected to remain a priority to re-sign a new contract for the second straight summer.

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Harden open to return to Houston in free agency