In his 13-year career, James Harden has never explored free agency. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Harden is increasingly interested in exploring his options outside of Brooklyn this summer.
Ever-important behind Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons trade talks, James Harden has recently told several confidants—including former teammates and coaches—of his growing interest to explore other opportunities outside of Brooklyn this summer. More at @BR_NBA: https://t.co/zy5dEwPSfP
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) January 25, 2022
According to Fischer, The Beard will by all accounts test unrestricted free agency for the first time and hasn’t ruled out returning to the Nets. Rumors have circulated Harden intends on leaving since last week. With the trade deadline approaching, Harden’s interest in testing the open mark could impact the Philadelphia 76ers’ work on moving Ben Simmons.
The root of Harden’s frustrations reportedly begins with Kyrie Irving’s status as a part-time player. The knee injury that Kevin Durant suffered in January forced Harden to shoulder the load of carrying Brooklyn alone since Irving can’t play in home games while being unvaccinated. Nets Coach Steve Nash’s fluid rotations favoring hot-hand closing lineups rather than a fixed crunch-time unit have also left Harden dissatisfied.
Despite his discontent, Fischer reports that Harden is still invested in competing for a title in Brooklyn.
“James isn’t going to hold back,” Fischer was told. “He’s gonna tell you where he stands.”
Harden is also less than enthused about living in Brooklyn. Fischer reports that outside of the change in weather, the difference in taxes he pays in New York versus Texas has also been less than enjoyable.
With that being said, Harden is not asking for a trade out of Brooklyn. A Nets-Sixers deal is reportedly highly unlikely before the deadline. However, his apparent willingness to move on and reunite with Sixers president Daryl Morey will seemingly loom over any trade negotiations the Sixers have until the Feb. 10 deadlines. According to Fischer, a Harden-Simmons trade is seen by Harden and 76ers management as a backstop for their potential marriage and respective futures.
Based on multiple reports, the Hawks, Kings, Lakers, Trail Blazers, Knicks, Jazz, and Timberwolves are still seen as the primary threats to land Simmons in a trade.
On Tuesday, Harden and the Nets (29-17) play the Lakers (23-24) at home.