James Harden was a household name in Houston for nine years. He won the NBA MVP award while playing for the Rockets and led them to the Western Conference Finals twice. But in January 2021, after expressing his frustration with the team’s direction, he requested a trade. The Rockets eventually dealt him to the Brooklyn Nets.
Fast forward to December 2022, and rumors began to circulate that Harden might be considering a return to Houston in free agency. At first, the news seemed unlikely. The Rockets were having a terrible season, and Harden had just spent two years on contending teams. But as time went on, the rumors only grew stronger.
From a personal perspective, it made sense. Harden loved Houston and considered it his home. The city embraced him, and he became a community leader. In a recent interview, he reiterated his love for the city. But from a basketball perspective, it was surprising. Why would a player who just spent two years on championship-caliber teams want to sign with a rebuilding franchise?
However, the Rockets have a lot to offer. In addition, they will have a league-estimate high $60 million in cap space this summer, which could allow them to acquire Harden and other top free agents.
It is clear that the interest is mutual. The Rockets are expected to pursue Harden if he declines his player option for the 2023-24 season. It would be a homecoming for Harden, and it could potentially put the Rockets back on the map. Harden is having an underrated season for the Sixers, averaging 21.9 points and 10.8 assists while shooting a career-high 40.1 percent from three. He would immediately boost the Rockets’ playoff odds next season.
According to a couple of NBA Sources, the 2018 league MVP has spent a lot of time throughout the 2022-23 season on his off days/nights in Houston partying and enjoying the night light. Harden still has a residency in Houston along with numerous business ventures, including ownership in the Houston Dynamo FC, Houston Dash, and his own restaurant ‘Thirteen’
James Harden has a player option for next year, and according to multiple sources, he will opt out and return to Houston.
If Harden does indeed leave and go back to Houston, it will show that the grass was not greener on the other side.