Since the Philadelphia 76ers acquired James Harden in the middle of the 2021-22 campaign, they’ve had their sights set on an NBA title.
However, if things don’t pan out, it seems that some people around the NBA think the former MVP could make a return to the Houston Rockets, where he evolved into the star that he is today.
“You know how the league works,” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said. “There’s a lot of gossip. There’s a lot of dot-connecting, ‘Hey, if things don’t work out in Philly, James Harden back to Houston. Just keep an eye out on that.'”
The 10-time All-Star going back to Houston wouldn’t really make a ton of sense. He is already 33 years old, and the Rockets franchise looks deeply entrenched in a rebuild. The two sides’ timelines don’t exactly add up.
If Harden were to go back to the Rockets, his chances of winning a ring while he’s still a productive player would probably decrease. Houston certainly has a bright future, however.
For his part, it seems like Harden has made efforts to help the Sixers create a title contender. Aside from taking a backseat to superstar Joel Embiid, the 33-year-old took a pay cut this past offseason to help the team.
Sources: James Harden is taking a $15 million paycut for next season that allowed Philadelphia to elevate roster — with sole focus on a championship run in 2023. Harden opted out of his $47M player option and now plans to sign a new two-year deal with a player option in Year 2.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 8, 2022
Earlier in the 2022-23 regular season, it appeared that the roster moves Philadelphia made in the offseason weren’t going to cut it. The team began the campaign with a 9-9 record. Contributing to its lackluster start was the injury bug, as some starters, including Harden and Embiid, missed a significant number of games early on.
But Philadelphia has earned eight wins in its last 11 games to move up in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Harden has done a nice job since his return from a foot injury, averaging 21.7 points and 11.2 assists per contest over his last six games.
It remains to be seen if the Sixers can maintain their momentum and continue climbing the standings. They won 51 games in the 2021-22 regular season, finishing with the No. 4 seed in the East before losing in the second round of the playoffs. Harden and the Sixers are hoping for a different result this time around.