Woj: James Harden very serious about returning to Rockets in 2023 offseason
With Philadelphia’s 2022-23 season now complete after a playoff loss to Boston, the focus shifts to the 2023 offseason and a widely anticipated free agency decision by star guard James Harden.
Rumors have swirled for months of Harden’s potential interest in returning to the Houston Rockets, who enter free agency with a league leading figure of approximately $60 million in salary cap room.
Now, on the day following that 76ers loss in Game 7, reports are emerging that Harden’s interest remains as genuine as ever.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
It was a real possibility back on Christmas, and it remains so now. Houston is a very real possibility for Philadelphia’s James Harden in free agency.
They want to be much better next season. There’s a comfort level in Houston for James Harden. He’s got family there. He’s very comfortable in that environment. This is an organization where he knows ownership, he knows the front office. Regardless of whether they win the lottery and can draft Victor Wembanyama, my sense is that would not necessarily change the Rockets’ intentions to pursue James Harden.
That’s going to be the story here between now and July. … I wouldn’t underestimate it as just a leverage play. I think he’s very serious about returning.
.@wojespn says there's "a very real possibility" that James Harden returns to Houston 👀
"If [the Rockets] win the lottery … and they're the ones who can draft Victor Wembanyama, my sense is that would not necessarily change the Rockets' intentions to pursue James Harden." pic.twitter.com/TvIXpkYxD3
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 15, 2023
Harden, who led the NBA in assists during 2022-23, averaged 21.0 points (44.1% FG, 38.5% on 3-pointers), 10.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds in 36.8 minutes this season. By June 29, he must make a decision on his 2023-24 player option and whether to enter free agency.
Considering his strong season, and the fact that he turns 34 years old in August, most league analysts expect Harden to decline that option and enter free agency — even if he wants to stay in Philadelphia. Based on that success, Harden currently has enough leverage to force teams into a multi-year contract offer, which he might not have if he delays free agency until 2024 and risks injury and/or some other age-related decline between now and then.
Thus, 2023 free agency appears inevitable for Harden. As for what that means in Houston… stay tuned!
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