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James Harden Rumors: 'Gossip' in NBA About 76ers PG Signing Rockets Contract in FA

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 21, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 19: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during the fourth quarter atori  at Wells Fargo Center on December 19, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

While there does not appear to be any discord with James Harden in Philadelphia, speculation about his impending free agency is already underway.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN said there has even been some buzz about Harden coming back to the Houston Rockets.

"There's already been a lot of gossip and dot connecting, 'Hey, if things don't work out in Philly, keep an eye out on James Harden back to Houston,'" MacMahon said on the Howdy Partners podcast.

"I think 'keep an eye out on that' is certainly fair. First, let's see how things work out in Philadelphia, where they're starting to play really good basketball. Also, does that make sense from a Rockets perspective?"

All things considered, this is a highly unlikely scenario. The Rockets are still in the midst of a rebuild and are two or three years away from serious contention—even in a best-case scenario. Harden will be 34 next August, putting him at 35 or 36 by the time Houston could reasonably expect a deep postseason run.

What's the point in paying a mid-30s Harden $35-40 million per year when he's in decline and won't lead to a championship? That money would be better spent taking chances on younger veterans or finding a max-level player in his mid-20s.

From Harden's perspective, a return to Houston is equally pointless. He already took a massive pay cut this season to re-sign with the Sixers in hopes of competing for a championship. Philly has won five straight games to move to 17-12 on the season, moving up to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Bolting the Sixers to return to a bad Rockets team would fly in the face of everything Harden is seemingly trying to accomplish since forcing his way to the City of Brotherly Love midway through last season.