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ESPN: 'Don't Rule Out' Kyrie Irving Joining Rockets amid James Harden Rumors

Adam WellsDecember 28, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 23: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts during the fourth quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center on December 23, 2022 in New York City. 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 Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Amid rumors that James Harden may be looking to return to the Houston Rockets this summer, another potential free-agent point guard could be an option for the team.

On the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast (h/t Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire), ESPN's Tim MacMahon said the possibility of the Rockets making a play for Kyrie Irving shouldn't be ignored.

"I'm just saying, don't rule that one out, either," he said.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Christmas Day that Harden was "seriously considering" a return to the Rockets if he opts out of his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers and doesn't want to re-sign as a free agent.

Per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Harden's desire to return to Houston dates back to before he requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets last season:

"By all accounts, the city of Houston and his foothold in the Rockets organization are something Harden missed the moment he left the franchise. It's where he morphed from Sixth Man of the Year to Most Valuable Player and one of the most recognizable athletes in America. The Rockets were his franchise and Houston was his domain."

The Rockets are one of a few teams projected to have cap space for a max contract in the offseason. Spotrac estimates they have $34.6 million available with 14 players under contract in 2023-24.

Houston could open more space by trading Eric Gordon and Kenyon Martin Jr., who are both expected to attract attention leading up to the Feb. 9 deadline.

Aside from the financial aspect, the Rockets could become an attractive destination to marquee free agents if they land the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. They have the worst record in the Western Conference (10-24).

If the Rockets draft Victor Wembanyama, they would have a tantalizing young core of the French prospect, Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. Veteran players don't usually like to partner with a group that young because it traditionally takes several years for them to hit their prime.

But Irving may not care about that type of thing. He would give the Rockets a dynamic scorer who controls the ball and would add instant credibility on the court for a franchise that has been struggling since the end of the Harden era.

Since returning from suspension on Nov. 20, Irving is averaging 25.6 points on 40.3 percent three-point shooting in 16 starts for the Nets.