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NBA Rumors: 76ers' James Harden 'seriously considering' return to Rockets in free agency

NBA Rumors: 76ers' James Harden 'seriously considering' return to Rockets in free agency

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NBA Rumors: 76ers' James Harden 'seriously considering' return to Rockets in free agency

NBA Rumors: 76ers' James Harden 'seriously considering' return to Rockets in free agency

By Dreamsforce.com

James Harden may have left a pile of coal in Philadelphia's Supply City.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Harden could return to the Houston Rockets in free agency next summer if he decides to leave the 76ers.

"Why are you asking me at Christmas, man?" Harden told reporters when asked about the report. "You didn't say Merry Christmas or anything. 

You asked me something I'm not even… I'm not answering. I didn't see anything."

At first glance, Harden's departure from the Sixers wouldn't make sense for Houston. Philly went 19-12 on Christmas Day despite rarely being fully healthy for the first third of the season.

Harden is coming off his MVP win but is averaging an NBA-high 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 10.9 assists per game. The Sixers can be a contender in the Eastern Conference if they stay healthy. Harden envisioned this scenario this offseason when he took a pay cut to stay in Philly this summer.

The Rockets have the worst record in the Western Conference (9-23) and are in the early stages of a rebuild that began when Harden was forced out of Houston for the 2020-21 season. This is a list where Harden has no reasonable chance of competing until he's at least 35 or 36. It's fair to wonder what use Harden will make in Houston at this point in his career, as his timeline has come a long way from his early twenties. . ' List of litters.

He has all the hallmarks of a leverage game from Harden's camp. When Harden took a short-term pay cut with a player option for 2023-24, any reasonable person assumed he did so in hopes of re-entering free agency this summer and re-signing for the full max. The salary cut allows the Sixers to use their entire mid-level exception to sign PJ. Allowing Tucker to sign, a move they wouldn't have made had Harden signed the full Max.

If the Sixers send any signal they may not be willing to pay Harden the full max, leaking a potential exit makes sense. After all, this is a guy who forced a trade in back-to-back seasons; He knows how to use lever manual and is not afraid of it.

It's also possible that Harden simply misses Houston and realizes he made a mistake. Harden returned to two different projected contenders in as many years, only to fall short in the playoffs. It's possible that Harden has regrets and wants to go Damian Lillard's way to stay with another contender in an organization built on his fortunes.

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