James Harden’s Off-Court Connection May Make Sixers Exit an ‘Inevitability’: Report

James Harden

Getty James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers

With the offseason not too long from now and there being plenty of speculation surrounding whether James Harden will stay with the Philadelphia 76ers or leave for the Houston Rockets, Ari Alexander of Click2Houston.com reported that Harden’s return to the Rockets feels inevitable.

“What I’ve heard in league circles is similar to what many Rockets fans are reading — that James Harden’s return is being treated as an inevitability. Harden has one year remaining on his deal with the 76ers but is expected to opt out and either seek a new deal or sign with the Rockets,” Alexander said.

Alexander added that Harden has several connections with Houston, including his rapport with the Rockets’ blossoming star Jalen Green among others.

“Harden is very comfortable in Houston, with a home, restaurant, and all of his favorite haunts. He’s said to have (a) good relationship with Jalen Green (they’re close through both typical basketball events and as faces of Adidas Basketball, where Green regularly wears Harden’s signature shoes).”

Harden played with the Rockets from 2012 to 2021, where he received plenty of accolades, including the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2018.

Rockets Are ‘Serious’ in Bidding For James Harden

Marc Stein reported on his Substack that the Rockets have let multiple teams know that they will be serious in their pursuit of Harden this summer.

“Even before Harden rumbled for 45 points in Philadelphia’s Game 1 win at Boston — with the benefit of just four trips to the free-throw line — Houston had already convinced numerous rivals that it is serious about the plan to become a summertime bidder for The Beard,” Stein said.

Stein added that, though the Rockets want a reunion with Harden, what could impact their pursuit is where they place in the upcoming NBA Draft lottery knowing who will be available at the draft.

“Another variable to keep track of here, certainly, is what happens on May 16, when the Rockets learn how they fare in the Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes. Would the Rockets still seek a Harden reunion if they win the right to draft Wemby No. 1 overall?”

Longer Deal Could Sway James Harden to Rockets

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report previewed how the Sixers may approach Harden’s expected upcoming free agency, starting with their salary cap situation.

“The franchise can afford a significant tax bill in the immediate term since Tobias Harris will come off after this next season (heading into his final year at $39.3 million). Still, keeping payroll down won’t be easy, with over $50 million per season committed to Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey expecting a healthy extension this offseason,” Pincus said.

Pincus added that a longer deal with the Rockets could potentially sway Harden to reunite with them.

“A shorter deal for Harden may appeal more to the franchise, but that may drive him to look elsewhere, including a potential return to the Houston Rockets. Houston has the cap room to offer a four-season $201.7 million maximum contract. While Philadelphia can beat that, that may be more than the franchise is willing to provide—and with no state taxes in Texas, Harden may net more with the Rockets.”