Report: James Harden is ‘torn’ over staying with Philadelphia 76ers or signing with Houston Rockets

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Former MVP and 10-time All-Star guard James Harden reportedly is “torn” between staying with the Philadelphia 76ers or signing with the Houston Rockets in free agency this coming offseason.

Harden has a player option on his contract for the 2023-24 season, so he could opt out to become an unrestricted free agent, which would leave him free to sign with any team.

“My sense right now is that James Harden is someone that’s torn,” NBA insider Shams Charania said on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. “Like you said, Philadelphia makes the big trade for him, moves Ben Simmons, moves some draft assets, gets him. There’s some familiarity there with him with Daryl Morey for years in Houston.”

Philadelphia has attempted to build a championship contender around Harden and Joel Embiid the last two seasons, but the team has come up short, losing in the second round of the playoffs in both campaigns.

Despite that, the Sixers still want Harden back, as there is a potential scenario where they could lose him for nothing if he goes back to Houston.

Harden spent several seasons in Houston after he was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to the 2012-13 regular season. He remained with the Rockets until the 2020-21 season when he requested a trade and was moved to the Brooklyn Nets.

Harden’s time in Brooklyn didn’t last long, as the Sixers traded for him prior to the deadline of the following season.

Now, it appears Harden has some interest in returning to the franchise where he won an MVP award and had some of the best seasons of his career.

While he is no longer the player he was during his time in Houston, Harden still has been effective for the Sixers. During the 2022-23 season, the seven-time All-NBA selection averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

If he stays in Philly, Harden would likely continue playing the role of primary ball-handler and distributor in an offense centered around reigning MVP Joel Embiid.

Should Harden return to Houston, his role would likely change, as he’d be joining a young Rockets team that has been in the bottom half of the league for three seasons in a row.

Harden still has plenty of time to make a decision, but both teams will need to have backup plans ready.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball, football and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.