James Harden leaving the Brooklyn Nets this summer is reportedly not out of the question, according to NBA Insider Marc Stein on his Substack.
Per Stein (via Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia), the Philidelphia 76ers front office brace remains interested in a deal for Harden. The rumor has gained traction around the League, and now many believe “there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer.”
“Perhaps [Joel Embiid] has also been sold on a concept that executives with a growing number of rival teams say they see as Morey’s new preferred scenario: Keeping Simmons beyond the trade deadline to exhaust every last possibility for executing a complicated sign-and-trade in the offseason that finally brings James Harden to Philadelphia and routes Simmons to Brooklyn,” Stein said about conversations he had with executives who have insight into what Morey is thinking with the deadline approaching.
“Complicated is a polite description for such a deal — Yet it must be noted that there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden’s reported openness to relocation this summer — after he turned down a lucrative extension from the Nets in October — to give Morey the encouragement he needs to wait.”
Harden had a chance to sign an extension with the Nets in October, but his decision to decline allows the former MVP to opt into his $47.4 million contract for the 2022-23 season and sign a four-year extension worth $223 million when free agency begins this summer according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Harden will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 for the first time at 34-years-old.
“I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have. So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will bear itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season,” Harden said per ESPN when he didn’t sign an extension.
If Harden were to leave Brooklyn for Philly, the nine-time All-Star would reunite with former Houston Rockets general manager and now president of 76ers basketball operations, Daryl Morey. The duo experienced a wide range of success in Houston since Morey traded for Harden in 2012, making two appearances in the Western Conference and Harden winning his first and only MVP in 2018.
Harden has struggled to maintain his MVP-level form, averaging 22.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game on 41.9 percent shooting from the field and 34.1 percent shooting from downtown.
On Wednesday, the Nets are 27-16 and will return to action against the Wizards (23-21).