Is James Harden Landing Back in Houston?

The 2023 NBA Playoffs reminded us of the greatness of one player that has been underwhelming for several years before that. The one-time MVP James Harden seems to have resurrected his stagnating career this season with his contributions towards the Philadelphia 76ers run. Could these be his last days in Philly though as he hits free agency this summer?

James Harden
Photo : Newspix / Icon Sport

James Harden’s Situation and Options As He Hits Free Agency This Summer

James Harden had 3 very rough years since he left the Houston Rockets. However, the 2022-23 season saw him return to some consistency. Even if his numbers are nowhere near to what they were during his Houston days Harden finished the regular season leading the entire NBA for assists per game with 10.7. He also announced to the world that he still has it in 2 of the first 4 games of the playoff series vs the Celtics. Harden scored 45 and 42 points in those games and his 76ers are tied at 2-2 in this series only because of him.

This is all good but James Harden is entering free agency at the end of this season. Now he has a one-year left with the Sixers but Harden has a player-opt-out clause at the end of this campaign and he himself hinted that he might execute that. James Harden will be 34 come August and he wants one more long contract before the end of his career. The Sixers are likely to offer a decent deal to him. However, Harden’s heart might be heading back to his beloved Houston where he still has his family home, owns a restaurant, remains a close friend with the Rockets owner, keeps close contact with several of the players and the list goes on and on. So, for many NBA insiders, it seems a given that Harden will wear a Houston Rocket uniform again next year. Of course, the fact that the Rockets will have a salary cap space of $60 million come this offseason also can’t be ignored. This makes them the team that can offer Harden the best possible contract if they wish to do so.

Is Harden’s Return to The Rockets Inevitable?

James Harden has never left Houston properly even after he left the Rockets. Harden still has his family home in the city. He owns one of the trendiest restaurants in Houston too. In fact, the Rockets owner is a frequent visitor there with his family and him and Harden remain very close. Harden also has several good friends among the current Rockets roster and several of the players continue to wear Harden’s signature Adidas shoes.

Even the highly respected ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski seems to be convinced Harden is heading back to Houston in the offseason:

“The Houston Rockets loom as a real suitor in free agency this summer,” Wojnarowski said. “… There are a lot of things that are attractive to Houston for him. It is essentially home, family there, familiarity with that organization and that community. They got $60 million in cap space. They want to be improved next season.”

Is Ime Udoka – James Harden Union A Match Made In Heaven?

The other big drawback for Harden could be the recent appointment of the highly esteemed head coach Ime Udoka as the new main man in Houston.

Udoka already hinted that he is looking for a unifying veteran figure for his roster as currently, the large majority of the players are age 24 and younger. Knowing the organisation inside out Harden will fit straight in this role. Under Udoka he will be guaranteed the leader’s role too as the new head coach likes to have a clear leader that always commands the ball. Harden loves that too. So, is this the magic matchup that Rocket fans had been waiting for for some time to propel them back to playoff heights?

We can’t wait to see what James decides. The ball is in your court, Mr Beard!

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About the author


Iskra had a promising, at least she believed so, tennis and volleyball careers as a junior but a series of injuries ended her hopes to become a professional athlete very early.

Instead, she focused all her energy on her other passion, writing. For over a decade, Iskra had been a freelance sports writer. Football, basketball and tennis are the main fields of her expertise.