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James Harden may depart 76ers for Rockets in free company based mostly on playoff run, per report


Is James Harden plotting his return to the Houston Rockets if he enters free company in the summertime of 2023? It’s an actual risk, based on a brand new report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Harden has a participant possibility for subsequent season after taking a $14 million pay minimize to return to Philadelphia over the offseason. The 76ers have been among the many preseason favorites within the East, however they’re the No. 5 seed within the convention forward of their Christmas day sport in opposition to the New York Knicks after a 19-12 begin. Harden may look to return to Houston — who’s flushed with cap area — over the offseason if Philadelphia comes up quick within the playoffs, based on Woj. The report additionally notes that Harden should keep in Philadelphia if the Sixers have the kind of postseason success he’s in search of.

This appears like such a jarring scoop from Woj as a result of Harden pressured his method out of Houston lower than two years in the past. His stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia since have did not yield the deep playoff run he’s been hoping for. A transfer again to the Rockets probably wouldn’t put him in place to compete for a championship instantly, however it might permit him to doubtlessly receives a commission a max contract.

Harden spent the most effective years of his profession with the Houston Rockets, the place he powered eight consecutive playoff runs, two journeys to the convention finals, and gained the 2018 MVP award. For all of Houston’s success within the Harden period, the franchise may by no means breakthrough to the NBA Finals and finally began to tear down the core round him. Harden noticed the writing on the wall and compelled his method out, finally getting traded to the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 14, 2021 for an enormous bundle of future draft picks that included three first spherical draft picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) and 4 first spherical choose swaps (2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027) going to Houston.

Harden’s keep in Brooklyn barely lasted a 12 months earlier than he pressured his method right into a commerce once more, this time as a result of he was upset with Kyrie Irving’s lack of availability following his refusal to get the Covid vaccine and the group’s lack of success. Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 10, 2022 for a bundle that included Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and two first-round draft picks going to Brooklyn.

Harden lately gave an interview with Yaron Weitzman the place he mentioned he modified the sport and the one factor his legacy is lacking is a championship. He pressured his method out of Houston to place himself in a greater place to win a title, however each the Nets and Sixers got here up quick.

The Nets gained just one playoff collection in two playoff runs with Harden. The Sixers have been knocked out within the second spherical of the playoffs final 12 months by the Miami Warmth.

Harden is now not one of many sport’s greatest scorers at 33 years previous, however he’s nonetheless a extremely productive level guard. Harden is averaging 21.4 factors and 10.9 assists per sport this season in Philadelphia.

The Rockets are off to the worst begin within the Western Convention at 9-23 general. The group has some good younger items in place, headlined by scoring guard Jalen Inexperienced, stretch ahead Jabari Smith Jr., massive man Alperen Sengun, and vitality ahead Tari Eason. The Rockets may add one other dynamic expertise within the draft this season, doubtlessly even Victor Wembanyama, the 7’5 French tremendous prospect who will go No. 1 general. If the Rockets land Wembanyama within the draft lottery, Harden’s curiosity in Houston would definitely improve.

What the Rockets actually need is some extent guard, and Harden would fill that void.

There are two swing elements right here: 1) how far the 76ers advance within the playoffs, and a couple of) how excessive the Rockets land within the draft lottery. Whereas this report feels stunning, it isn’t exhausting to imagine Harden might not have loyalty to Philly after taking such a giant pay minimize this season.

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