NBA insider says James Harden may be using rival team as leverage for upcoming 76ers negotiations

While there have been rumblings for months that the Houston Rockets are targeting a reunion with James Harden, a top NBA insider claimed the rumors could all be a part of a bigger play by the former MVP to get the sort of money he wants from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Since December, there have been rumors in NBA circles that the Houston Rockets have one primary target in NBA free agency this summer, former star James Harden. The one-time NBA MVP played for eight All-Star seasons before forcing his way out of town. Those issues all seem to be water under the bridge and the Houston front office wants to bring in big-ticket talent to get them back to the playoffs next season.

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The only reason why this is possible is in the bargain two-year deal James Harden signed with the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, there is an opt-out before next season. Every indication is that he will exercise that option and hit the open market.

Switching from a perennial contender to a Rockets team in a complete rebuild seems surprising at this point in Harden’s career, but he has always proven to be about getting big-money deals and this summer could be his last chance to get one final monster contract. However, the 76ers might also offer him his last good chance at winning a championship as well.

James Harden stats (’22-’23): 21.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 10.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39% 3PT

james harden
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Philadelphia 76ers’ elimination from the NBA playoffs on Sunday, James Harden said he wants a “chance to compete” next season. Which is far from a guarantee with Houston. That might be why NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski made an interesting suggestion during a Monday morning appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up.”

“It may ultimately all be a leverage play, Houston may be his way to get him the guarantee he gets long-term money from Philadelphia. But I would not underestimate it as just a leverage play. I think he’s very serious about returning to Houston.”

– Adrian Wojnarowksi

It will be interesting to see how this plays out since the Rockets will have the most available cap space of any team this summer. If 7ers head coach Doc Rivers is fired, his replacement could play a major role in if James Harden returns or not next season.

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