James Harden’s Decision May Come Down to ‘Loyalty Factor’: Insider

James Harden, Daryl Morey

Getty James Harden and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey of the Philadelphia 76ers

With free agency only weeks away, the Philadelphia 76ers will have a decision to make with James Harden. Not just if they’ll be able to keep him or not, but how much they are willing to pay to keep him. On June 17, NBA Insider Marc Stein reported that not only is Harden now strongly considering going back to Philly, but explained why loyalty plays a part.

“There have been some rumbles this week that, despite the undeniably strong lure that a return to Houston holds for Harden, he is said to be giving renewed consideration to staying put. There is a loyalty factor for Harden to weigh after Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey spent the bulk of his first 15 months in the City of Brotherly Love trying to acquire him, finally succeeding in February 2022,” Stein wrote on his Substack.

Morey hit two birds with one stone when he acquired Harden, having not only gotten the former MVP who he had success with on the Houston Rockets, but also traded malcontent Ben Simmons in the process. Again, what may be the final factor is how much he and the Sixers are willing to pay to keep Harden for how long.

Bill Simmons Calls James Harden’s Return ‘Probable’

Bill Simmons also revealed that it is appearing more and more likely that Harden will return to the Sixers this summer.

On the June 16 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” Simmons revealed that Harden’s return is the reason why the Sixers are not pursuing Bradley Beal.

“I’ll tell you this. Heard last night from a little birdie – Harden going back to Philly is way more realistic and probable than everyone’s giving it credit for, including myself, up until yesterday when I heard about this. Because everyone was like, ‘Oh, he’s going to Houston.’ There’s been some Philly buzz, and I think that’s one of the reasons why they’re not in the Beal sweepstakes.”

The Sixers could also hypothetically have both of them, but if what Simmons says is true, then Harden’s decision to remain with the team evidently makes them feel that adding Beal wouldn’t be necessary.

Sixers Not Interested in Fred VanVleet, Bradley Beal

On June 15, NBA Insider Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports revealed that even if Harden leaves, the Sixers are not expected to chase Beal or Fred VanVleet as his replacement.

Fischer wrote that the Sixers wouldn’t be interested in VanVleet despite his connections to Sixers head coach Nick Nurse.

“But Philadelphia, sources said, is not expected to target Fred VanVleet in the event Harden departs via free agency, despite the obvious connection to new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse, who won a championship with VanVleet in Toronto in 2019.”

Fischer added that Sixers aren’t interested in Beal even if Harden returns to the team.

“The Philadelphia 76ers…are also not expected to target Beal, league sources told Yahoo Sports, regardless of whether Harden decides to remain with the franchise.”

These report could also indicate that the Sixers aren’t planning to add a Harden replacement because they won’t have to should Harden re-sign with the team.