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James Harden Potential Return To Rockets?

By Jeff Stinger

James Harden’s on-and-off moments keep Philadelphia 76ers fans confused. Nevertheless, he did show up for his franchise on Christmas day. He led his side to their eighth-straight victory over the Knicks with 29 points and 13 assists. However, before stepping on the court, reports emerged that the 33-year-old guard might want to return to Houston in the off-season. Harden has a player option this summer in his bargain deal with the Sixers. How can this scenario pan out?

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Will We See James Harden Suit Up for the Houston Rockets Soon?

The Deal

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that Harden and his camp have been open to a Houston comeback in recent months. There’s a certain gravitational pull between the former Rockets star and the franchise, due to the community, lifestyle, and family he had there. The Los Angeles-born player spent nearly eight years of his career with the Rockets. Since he’s not getting any younger, Harden could choose familiar territory for comfort over a chance to immediately contend for a title.

However, this doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to flee from the Sixers. The team has been on fire lately and Harden’s duo with Joel Embiid seems to be working all out. If that positive trend continues and the team pulls off a deep playoff campaign, the point guard would likely become interested to stay for another season.

James Harden’s return to free agency this summer opened up a five-year contract with the 76ers, but went for a shorter-term deal, featuring a two-year, $68.6-million USD agreement with a player option for the second season. Furthermore, the contract saw Harden accept a significant pay cut, which freed up space under the hard cap for Philly to add free agents P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

Rumors of Harden receiving a better long-term contract surfaced after what happened. Although Harden has a solid relationship with Philadelphia CEO Tad Brown, his working relationship with head coach Doc Rivers remains on the drawing board.

Can the Rockets accommodate Harden?

But, the Houston Rockets of today are much different than when Harden left the franchise. His exit came just after Morey and Mike D’Antoni left the organization. The roster has gone through major updates since. If Harden is legitimately interested in becoming part of the rebuilding phase, the franchise would have to consider reacquiring him with the core pieces in mind. Rising stars Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, and Kevin Porter would have to adjust and make way for the veteran guard.

Houston can accommodate larger cap space for what it’s worth. Looking at the situation from a different angle, signing Harden as a free agent can happen. Reports have the club projected at roughly $45 million in cap room, and that number shoots up without Eric Gordon’s $20.9 million non-guaranteed salary.

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