The 2023 NBA offseason might be another summer dominated by Kyrie Irving rumors, as the Houston Rockets reportedly could be interested in the superstar if they are unable to orchestrate a reunion with James Harden.
“I have also heard that the Rockets, in the event that they are unable to lure Harden away from Philadelphia and back to Houston, plan to weigh a run at Dallas’ Kyrie Irving,” Marc Stein wrote.
“The [Dallas] Mavericks remain the league’s only known team with definitive interest in signing the mercurial Irving next month, but league sources say that the Rockets have been increasingly cited as a team that could (stress: could) join the bidding if Harden elects to stay with the [Philadelphia] 76ers.”
Harden reportedly is “torn” between leaving the 76ers or rejoining the Rockets. The 33-year-old can opt out of his contract to become a free agent this offseason, with Houston a leading destination if he chooses that route.
Irving is set to become a free agent, but a return to the Mavericks is reportedly his preferred outcome. Yet that hasn’t stopped speculation about the 31-year-old’s next move, which could be a sign-and-trade to the Los Angeles Lakers that reunites him with LeBron James, or a deal that somehow gets James into a Mavericks uniform.
Irving was traded to the Mavericks by the Brooklyn Nets, where he was once teammates with Harden, during the 2022-23 regular season.
The Mavericks’ pairing of the guard with Luka Doncic did not go according to plan, with Dallas failing to make the playoffs and actually getting fined for tanking at the end of the regular season in order to protect a top-10 draft pick.
Stein wrote that the Rockets are projected to have $59 million in cap space to work with this summer, and Fred VanVleet, Cam Johnson, Dillon Brooks, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez also have been linked to them.
Harden played for the Rockets from 2012 until 2021 and was NBA MVP in the 2017-18 season. But he was unable to get Houston into the NBA Finals, falling short in the Western Conference Finals twice. This season, the 76ers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.
Harden and Irving are among several high-profile players who could be on the move in a “major reset” this offseason. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard recently said he would like to land with the Miami Heat or Nets if he were to be traded, though he’s been reported to be “actively” recruiting free agents to join him in Portland.
Irving may or may not be on Lillard’s list of targets, but seemingly anything is on the table with the NBA offseason starting to get closer and closer.