Latest On James Harden

James Harden had little to say about an ESPN report Sunday that he’s considering a return to Houston in free agency next summer, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Whether the report was legitimate or just a way of letting the Sixers know that he won’t be giving them a discount again, Harden denied any knowledge of it and brushed aside questions before Philadelphia’s Christmas Day game.

“Why would you ask me about that on Christmas, man?” he told a reporter. “You didn’t say Merry Christmas or nothing. You asked me about something that I ain’t even … I’m not answering. I didn’t see nothing.”

The two-year, $68.6MM contract that Harden signed in late July contains a player option for 2023/24. Harden could have demanded more money, but his $33MM salary left the Sixers with enough room under the hard cap to sign three of his friends and former Houston teammates, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and Montrezl Harrell.

Harden didn’t feel like addressing the rumor after the game either, indicating that he’s happy with the Sixers, who have strung together eight straight wins.

“I’m here. We are playing very well,” he said. “And I don’t know where the report came from. But I’m very excited to be here. We are playing well, and we’re continuing to get better.”

There’s more on the Harden rumor:

  • Nets officials were concerned last year that Harden had an interest in going back to Houston, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn considered the Rockets to be as much of a threat as the Sixers were to sign Harden in free agency, Fischer adds. Sources tell Fischer that Harden began to miss playing in Houston, as well as his position with the organization and in the community, shortly after being traded to Brooklyn in January of 2021.
  • Sunday’s report doesn’t change anything about the way Sixers management will approach Harden’s free agency, per Kyle Neubeck of The organization was always prepared for the possibility that the star guard will have other offers to consider. The team is committed to aiming for a championship this season with Harden and Joel Embiid as its main components and will hope to sign Harden to a long-term deal in the offseason.
  • If Harden is considering an exit, any trade involving Tyrese Maxey becomes far less likely, adds Neubeck, who states that the Sixers currently aren’t close to making any deals.
  • Harden could be a welcome addition as a leader for the Rockets’ collection of young talent, suggests Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston can have more than $45MM in cap room, and there aren’t a lot of other prime options on the upcoming free agent market. However, Feigen also questions whether Harden would be worth a major investment when he’s about to turn 34.
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