James Harden Rumors: 76ers 'Strongly Believe' Star Won't Sign New Contract with Nets

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 8, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 2: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 2, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets have been hesitant to trade James Harden before Thursday's deadline, but they could lose him in free agency in the offseason anyway.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported the Philadelphia 76ers "strongly believe he won’t re-sign with the Nets and remain hopeful that Brooklyn sees the light before the deadline buzzer sounds."

Harden would be an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $47.4 million player option for 2022-23.

The 76ers are willing to wait until the offseason to land Harden, with Ben Simmons potentially used for a sign-and-trade, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Philadelphia president Daryl Morey has long admired Harden after initially bringing the superstar to the Houston Rockets in 2012.

A midseason trade would be even better for Philadelphia, making the team a greater contender in the Eastern Conference. The squad enters Tuesday just two games away from the No. 1 seed, while adding an elite perimeter scorer alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid makes the team especially dangerous.

If the Nets are going to lose Harden in free agency, one strategy could be completing a trade now to get a better return and set the team up for future success.

The problem is Brooklyn still believes the guard isn't leaving.

"I've talked to James, he wants to be here," head coach Steve Nash told reporters Sunday. "He wants to be here long term as well, so I don’t think anything’s changed other than noise from the outside. James wants to be here, we're building with James and we think we have the best chance to win with James."

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, general manager Sean Marks flatly turned down any deal involving Harden last month.

The Nets also see themselves as contenders this season, especially when the Big Three are all on the court together. It hasn't happened as planned with Harden dealing with a hamstring injury, Kevin Durant out with a knee injury and Kyrie Irving unable to play in home games due to his vaccination status.

If the team ever reaches full strength, however, it will certainly be dangerous come playoff time.