It remains to be seen if James Harden will remain with the Philadelphia 76ers past this season. With the player option he has this summer, Harden could potentially opt out and go to another team. That’ll be a bridge he and the Sixers will cross when they come to it, but among the teams that could potentially be interested in Harden is his former team, the Houston Rockets.
While Harden’s potential return to Houston was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Rockets Insider Kelly Iko of The Athletic provided a rather concerning update for Sixers fans on that front when asked about the odds Harden plays for the Rockets on opening night.
“I’m putting it at a seven out of 10. I think where there’s smoke, there’s fire. James loves this city. He loves those guys on the roster, the young players in Houston. He has ties to the city’s businesses. His home is here. Crazier things have happened, so, don’t call me crazy, but you might be seeing something different,” Iko said.
According to Yossi Gozlan of Yahoo Sports, the Rockets are projected to have between $56 to $60 million in cap space this summer.
Insider Says Sixers Have to Pay Harder Max or Lose Him
On the February 16 episode of “Clap Your Hands,” Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice said that, with the way Harden has been playing this season, not only will he opt out, but the Sixers will have to pay him the max or he will leave.
“The big story might be less about this season and more about that guy is opting out and asking for the full max and you either giving it to him or he’s leaving because he is worth that in this current form and I don’t think he’s taking less than that if I had to guess.,” Neubeck said.
In 41 games this season, Harden is averaging 21.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 6.2 rebounds a game while shooting 45.1% from the field and 38.9% from three. While Harden has been productive all-around this season, he is also 33 years old and will be 34 in August. While losing him could be a setback, the Sixers have to keep in mind that maxing out an aging player may not be worth it in the long haul.
If the Sixers go on an extended playoff run or even win the championship, then paying Harden would be an easier decision to make, but they haven’t gotten past the second round since 2001.
Harden Hired New Agent
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on February 14 that Harden has hired Troy Payne as his new agent, his first agent since 2017.
“Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden will be represented by Troy Payne, a former Adidas executive who is partnering with agents Mike Silverman and Brandon Grier to lead Equity Basketball. Payne, Silverman, and Grier are now the agents for Harden, who signed a two-year contract with the 76ers last offseason and has the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in July,” Charania said.
On FanDuel TV, Charania talked about the possible impact this move could have on Harden’s free agency.
“This is an interesting development because James Harden has a player option for the summertime. He could be a free agent. He’s had a bounceback year this year,” Charania said. “James Harden is starting to make moves and maneuver for the offseason, for post-career.”