Just two years after requesting a trade out of Houston, star Sixers guard James Harden is seriously mulling the possibility of returning to the Rockets when he becomes eligible for free agency in the summer of 2023, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
According to Wojnarowski, Harden and his camp have been “openly weighing Houston in recent weeks and months.”
Wojnarowski describes the city as having a “magnetic pull” on the former MVP due to the community, lifestyle, and family he had there. Having spent seven-and-a-half years of his NBA career with the Rockets, Harden could choose to return to Houston if he opts for “comfort and familiarity” over a chance to immediately contend for a title, Woj writes.
However, that doesn’t mean Harden is set on leaving Philadelphia. The Sixers have been on a roll lately and Harden’s on-court partnership with Joel Embiid finally seems to be firing on all cylinders. If that success continues and the team enjoys a deep playoff run in the spring, the 33-year-old guard would likely become more inclined to stick around beyond this season, Wojnarowski writes.
A free agent this past summer, Harden could have signed with the 76ers for up to five years, but decided to negotiate a shorter-team deal, signing a two-year, $68.6MM pact with a player option for the second season.
The contract – which saw Harden accept a significant pay cut – freed up space under the hard cap for Philadelphia to add a couple free agents (P.J. Tucker and Danuel House). There was a belief outside the organization that the agreement came with an understanding that Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ front office would be willing to offer Harden a more lucrative long-term contract next summer.
Although Harden has connections with Morey and CEO Tad Brown in Philadelphia, his working relationships with Embiid and head coach Doc Rivers are more of a “work in progress,” according to Wojnarowski.
However, as Wojnarowski points out, the current version of the Rockets isn’t the same one Harden remembers — his exit came just after Morey and longtime head coach Mike D’Antoni left the organization, and the roster has also undergone a major overhaul in recent years. If Harden is legitimately interested in returning to Houston, the franchise would have to consider how reacquiring him would impact the development of core pieces like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, and Kevin Porter, Woj observes.
For what it’s worth, Houston projects to have a substantial chunk of cap space, so from a practical perspective, signing Harden as a free agent would be doable. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) has the club projected at about $45MM in cap room, and that number would increase without Eric Gordon‘s $20.9MM non-guaranteed salary on the books.
Harden, who has made 10 consecutive All-Star teams, has missed some time due to injury this season, but has been productive when healthy, averaging 21.4 points, 10.9 assists, and 6.6 rebounds in 37.8 minutes per night. His .364 3PT% is his highest mark since 2018/19.
37 thoughts on “James Harden Considering Return To Rockets In Free Agency”
Why would a young team on the rise like Houston possibly want to sign an aging Harden?
Thinking about it, there’s probably nothing to this article. Just conjecture and thoughts but really nothing behind it. Houston probably wouldn’t want a 30 million a year James Harden.
I think Harden is a good player to have on a team and I doubt he would hurt their chemistry but it seems like a bad fit for them as an organization to invest heavily in him when they are indeed so young and should be leaning into that.
Happy Holidays to you all!
I agree that Houston is young, but not so sure they’re on the rise. There’s a huge difference between them and, say, a young Cleveland Cavaliers team that’s on the rise. I wouldn’t add Harden to them, but I think the Rockets could definitely use James Harden, who would automatically become their best player and maybe expedite their “rise” a little bit. He’d definitely bring more fans and excitement to the arena. Could they then compete for a championship? Hell no!
Not sure if everyone will get this but, realistically and truthfully, every player wants to win… GAMES.
So much has to come together to win a CHAMPIONSHIP. That’s why, obviously, there are more players that haven’t won a championship than those that have. Randy Brown and Mario Elie have multiple rings and Iverson, Barkley, Ewing, and Red Miller have none. There’s only a handful of teams that can go into a season with a realistic shot at a championship, and even those teams have to be blessed with a whole lot of luck and good health.
Many (most) players literally just want to HOOP!!!… and get paid for it, live a tremendous lifestyle, have a ton of instagram followers, and win as many GAMES as possible. If a championship comes with that (it probably WONT!) then great! But, every player knows how hard it is to win a GAME in the nba, and if you can win more games than you lose, make a ton of cash, have great parties, enjoy great wings, and take care of your friends and family, ITS A GREAT YEAR!
Harden would absolutely love to go back to Houston!
Harden and 76ers are trying to clean up the mess of his extension. Everybody knows Harden and Philly have a max extension “wink-wink” in place. This is all just putting chatter out there to make it “appear” that he is actually looking for a new squad.
I totally agree with. James Harden will be 34 years old next season. It wouldn’t make no sense for a young upcoming team to go after a player that old.
Houston Rockets should keep rebuilding. They got some nice players like Eric Gordon and Kenyon Martin Jr. that can get traded. Then I like Jalen Green Kevin Porter Jr. Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason. I would love to see them get the number 2 pick in the upcoming draft and get Scoot Henderson.
James Harden ain’t nothing they should want. He never even took them to a NBA Finals. He’s not a two way player or a leader.
Harden to the Rockets would be such an abysmal move for Houston at that point in time, KPJ should be replaced by a real PG and Jalen should be given the bulk scoring load, signing a 35 year old who will demand to dribble to 8 seconds on the shot clock would be Houston goin in reverse
I think the main issue on Houston rn is not having a veteran run the offense.
Jalen Green and JSJ are very reminiscent of Brown and Tatum in Boston (maybe better eventually)
Houstons rebuild can transition to adding veterans this offseason and could turn the corner rapidly.
Yes but the “grass is greener” elsewhere?
As with some of us, me included, sometimes we can’t decide where we want to be. We go here, we go there, and figure out that the last spot was actually the best. Well I guess that’s what makes life fun. Where the excitement lies is often the change and the challenge.
So would Houston actually want a player like Harden back? Are they ready to make the leap to the conference champion challengers? Perhaps so, perhaps not?
I think they are.
JSJ is a big time difference maker
Jalen Green showing what he can be more consistently.
Sengun also has tremendous upside.
Next season those guys could be stepping into their early primes.
adding a veteran PG and sending Porter Jr. out of town makes all the sense in the world.
not sure if Harden is the right fit, but the Rockets were never as abysmal with Harden on the roster as they have been without him
and that’s a fact..
But I thought he had a handshake deal with the Sixers? Every expert here told me this!
He does and his camp just wanna create drama to get attention.
Philadelphia 76ers would be crazy to give him a max contract. I’m not even sure if James Harden is still a top 20 player in the NBA. He gets great numbers but his style is hard to play with and his game not built for the playoffs.
I don’t think it’s set in stone. There have been rumblings since he got to Philly about him want back to the H. Maybe he wants to be a leader, for once.
This honestly makes pretty little sense at this stage in his career. His whole reason for leaving appeared to be a desire to win a championship, and going back to Houston would not at all help him in that regard. If he really values comfort then ok but a years later to come back becuase of that and without the championship is pretty dubiois. This only makes sense as an end of career move or if does finally get a chip somewhere.
What was so good about the good ‘ole James Harden Rocket days? Good one, Ha, Ha
Harden Green KMJ Jabari sengun is a great core with KPJ Eric Gordon (if he stays) Tate Eason Garuba off the bench. Still have the mle to sign a vet.
We saw how impactful CP3 was for Booker’s development. Harden can improve Green progression
Cp3 is a good role model. Harden is not at all.
Must miss those Houston strip clubs that bad
Merry Christmas to all ……….
Rockets should stay far far away from Harden. Much better mentors out there.
Pass on having Harden back on the Rockets unless it is for dirt cheap.
Idk what to believe on this one. If Harden does actually want to return then sweet. Regardless I wouldn’t be offering him the max.
To his fairness he has been playing great even tho he’s older. The other night he dropped a career high 21 assists, which is also equal first in the franchise. He’s also shooting terrifically, still giving you an easy 20 points per game and I hope can still turn it on and give you 40-50 when needed. The only probably is the history of wanting out, being overweight, locker room issues and as he gets older I wouldn’t want to be risking all of these things. I’d be looking at a front loaded contract like 40mil, 35mil, 30mil (3 years 105mil plus incentives).
The thing is we have now built up some decent depth and I think we could actually afford to let him walk. There’s Tyrese, Melton, Milton and Thybulle. Thybulle was great is his previous start, Meltons been fantastic as a starter this year, Milton we know can shoot the lights out but his overall game has improved and Maxey is a future all star.
Heck if he wants to go to Houston that bad we will work out a sign and trade, Harden for Eric Gordon and a first.
He’s a runner. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Yes, he’s run away from what 3 teams going on 4?
Sounds about right.
I feel sorry for any Sixers fan. Harden taking an “I can hardly wait to get the hell out of here” attitude.
What player muses about going to a sh*tty team from a possible championship team while they are developing team chemistry for a run at the championship? It is either made up for click bait or Harden is a tone-deaf egomaniac…even money on which it is.
Bradley Beal Trade for James Harden
Now This Is The Time
What a clown! He gave up on the team and forced his way outta town, and now that they’re building something nice, he wants to crawl back to the team. Get outta here!
PHI can’t complain. He’s playing under a contract both parties wanted, and it says he can be UFA after this season and go where he wants. It’s not like he’s holding out to force a trade (HOU) or threatening to sit out or slow play in mid-season if he’s not traded (BKN). PHI was his chief enabler in the latter.
Not that worried as a Sixers fan. Yes he’s a great player and all but we now finally have some depth and Maxey is really stepping up. I wouldn’t be that sad to see him go. Probably hurts the immediate future and pushes the championship window back a season or two but not the end of the world. Means we have cap flexibility and could sign someone in FA
Sign and trade him for Eric Gordon and a protected first.
Maxey and Thybulle start, Melton and Gordon off the bench. Future first
Elite defence with Thybulle Tucker and Embiid.
Good offence in Embiid Maxey and Harris
Good bench with Melton Gordon and Niang
Plus some cap space
Don’t need Jalen Green running around after game time with Harden. Great player on the floor, clown off of it and is a terrible teammate when he didn’t get his way. I love what he did for Houston for all those years, but he left completely wrong. Not sure if he’d be a great veteran on an up and coming team full of young talent.
Another non-story based purely on speculation by Woj
That’s what Woj does, create narratives that never happen, but fans always lap them up like if it was gospel, SMH!
Harden sick of playing 2nd or 3rd fiddle in Philly already?
If Houston get VW he might be number 1 experience wise, but that won’t last long…