ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden had interest in returning to his previous team, the Houston Rockets, on Christmas Day 2022. After the Sixers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics, Wojnarowski gave an update on Harden’s potential upcoming free agency.
“It was a real possibility back on Christmas, and it remains so now that the Sixers are in the offseason that we’re started to head toward July free agency. Houston’s a very real possibility for Philadelphia’s James Harden in free agency. They’ve got upwards of $60 million in cap space. They want to be much better next season,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s Get Up on May 15.
According to Wojnarowski, Houston is comfortable getting Harden no matter how things turn out in the NBA lottery.
“There’s a comfort level in Houston for James Harden. He’s got family there. He’s very comfortable in that environment, and this is an organization where he knows ownership. He knows the front office, and I think regardless for the Rockets of whether or not they won the draft lottery, if they win the lottery tomorrow night here in Chicago, and they’re the ones who can draft Victor Wembayana, my sense is that would not necessarily change the Rockets’ intentions to pursue James Harden.”
The Rockets will enter the lottery tied for the highest odds of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft.
James Harden’s Exit May Lead to Joel Embiid’s Trade Request
If Harden leaves, that could very well impact Joel Embiid’s future with the Sixers. Zach Braziller of the New York Post reported that Embiid may make a trade request if Harden leaves the Sixers for the Rockets this summer.
‘There have been whispers that Joel Embiid could want out of Philadelphia if free-agent-to-be James Harden goes back to the Rockets, as has been rumored,” Braziller said.
He added that should Embiid ask for a trade, he still is under contract for three more seasons with the Sixers.
“But Embiid — who was once repped by Knicks president Leon Rose — is under contract for three more seasons.”
The Sixers will cross that bridge if and when they come to it.
James Harden’s Exit Seen as ‘Inevitability:’ Report
Harden will remain under contract with the Sixers until he decides to pick up his option for next season or not. Even so, 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 Jalen Green is among the connections Harden currently has with Houston.
“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).”