Some may find the reason James Harden reportedly wants to leave the Sixers to be sacrilege. According to a report from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Harden desires a return to Houston in order to be “treated like a God.”
“Sources have said his interest in returning to Houston is mutual and not a ploy to get a lucrative deal out of the Sixers” Pompey said. “His mother still lives in the city. He has several business ventures there. And, as one source said, “he’s treated like a god in Houston.”
Harden was a member of the Rockets from October 2012 to January 2021, and during his time in Southeast Texas, the 2017-18 MVP led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals twice — even holding a 3-2 lead on the Golden State Warriors in 2018. Since being traded twice since January 2021, first to the Brooklyn Nets and then to the Sixers, Harden has not been able to escape the second round of the Eastern Conference postseason.
A return to the South could well rejuvenate Harden’s career after he became a Sixth Man of the Year on the Oklahoma City Thunder and an MVP and perennial best player on a contender in Houston.
James Harden Definitely Hitting Free Agency
It’d be tampering per the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement if the news of Harden going to the Rockets was broken at this point. All that can be reported is that he is hitting free agency this summer, which is what Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes relayed.
“Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden intends to decline his $35.6 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer in order to secure a long-term deal, league sources tell Bleacher Report,” Haynes wrote.
Harden has a very clear direction in what he desires in his next home: in a nutshell, having the “freedom to be himself.”
“The Houston Rockets have long been a rumored destination, but sources say Harden will only entertain suitors that present a competitive roster and the basketball freedom for the star to be himself, sources say,” Haynes reported.
James Harden ‘Driving Force’ Behind Sixers Firing Doc Rivers
Potentially on his way out of Philadelphia, Harden may have set the match and torched the organization’s power structure. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that several members of Doc Rivers’ coaching staff believe that Harden was the “driving force” behind the Sixers firing the head coach.
“Sixers president Daryl Morey shouldered responsibility for the decision to remove Rivers during a news conference Wednesday,” Fischer reported. “Several members of Rivers’ staff, sources said, have pointed to All-Star point guard James Harden — whom league personnel are expecting to decline his player option in search of a long-term contract — as a driving force behind Rivers’ departure.”
If that is true, the potential ramifications cannot be undersold. Joel Embiid, who has been with the Sixers since being selected No. 3 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, had a close relationship with Rivers. Should the reigning league MVP take it personally that the franchise prioritized the will of a star who has been with the team for 15 months, that could lead to an even bigger teardown in Philadelphia.