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June 26, 2023

NBA rumors: Harden returning to Houston remains a 'serious possibility'

The latest James Harden free agency rumor indicates that there's still a chance he could return to the Houston Rockets.

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Sixers-76ers-James-Harden-Celtics_050423_USAT David Butler II/USA Today Sports

When Daryl Morey says he's got you.

Another day, another James Harden rumor. After his second playoff exit with the Sixers, where will the future Hall of Fame guard end up this summer?

This Thursday, June 29, is the deadline for James Harden to opt in or out of his 2023-24 player option of $35.6 million. He's certainly going to opt out of that, looking for a larger payday with more guaranteed years in free agency. There's been a ton of noise as to what Harden's decision will be when he signs his next contract, with it seemingly coming down to the Sixers and his former squad, the Houston Rockets, as all parties play each other for leverage. 

The latest report comes from The Athletic's Sam Amick, who states that Harden returning to the Rockets remains a "strong possibility," writing:

There is an undeniable connection between Harden and that region of Texas that might ultimately be the final factor in his decision.

But even beyond the vast contrast between the state of each franchise — an established Eastern Conference power vs. the rebuilding Rockets — it’s the leverage game that makes this all so compelling. Each team, it has seemed at times, views the other as nothing more than a pawn whose main role is to help Harden get the biggest and best deal possible. Only Harden and his inner circle truly know which way he is leaning, but a source close to him reconfirmed that the Rockets remain a serious possibility. [The Athletic/$]

Harden heading back to Houston screams, "I don't care about winning basketball, just chilling out and riding my way to the Hall of Fame," which I guess works in his favor, but it's a sharp contrast to what he'd return to in Philly. Do you want to score 35 points per night or do you want to try again for a Finals run with the Sixers? The fact that it needs to be asked says a lot. 

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