James Harden is considering a Rockets reunion if he doesn’t stay with Sixers after this season, according to the report

Santa Claus delivered something pretty strange to the Philadelphia 76ers. About an hour before Christmas Day’s opening game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that James Harden is seriously considering a reunion with the Houston Rockets next summer, provided he decides to keep his $35.6 million Dollar option for player to decline 2023-24 season and not re-sign with the Sixers.

hardening is a performance of 20 points, 21 assists and 11 rebounds in a 119-114 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. In July, he signed a two-year, $68.8 million contract with Philadelphia. The Sixers are 19-12 and have seven straight games won, but he’s still drawn to Houston for a variety of reasons, according to ESPN.

From ESPN:

Harden and his inner circle have been openly weighing Houston over the past few weeks and months, sources said, a notable possibility given that he applied for and received a trade from the franchise less than two years ago.

Although Harden forced his way out of the Rockets in January 2021, he has maintained a sort of magnetic attraction to Houston, drawn to the community, lifestyle and family there, sources said. After relatively brief stops in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, a move back to a rebuilt Rockets franchise would effectively represent comfort and familiarity over an immediate championship pursuit.

For all of Harden’s history and association with Sixers basketball operations president Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown, his working relationships with Embiid and coach Doc Rivers resemble more of an ongoing work. The Sixers gave up significant assets to acquire Harden and he is expected to remain a priority for a second straight summer to re-sign.

Before the game in New York, Harden didn’t feel like discussing ESPN’s report.

Of the Philadelphia investigatorsKeith Pompey:

Asked about the report before the game, Harden replied, “What report?”

Harden said he didn’t know what the reporter was talking about and became agitated when asked about rumors that he was considering moving back to Houston.

“Why are you asking me that on Christmas, man?” he said. “You didn’t say Merry Christmas or anything. You asked me something I’m not even… I’m not answering. I did not see anything.”

Later told why the question had to be asked, Harden replied, “I’m not speaking before the game now.”

Harden hasn’t even been a full year Sixer. He got into a blockbuster trade in February when Philadelphia sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets. This trade followed his January 2021 trade from Houston to Brooklyn. In both cases, Harden had requested a trade. When he re-signed with the Sixers, he took just enough money to add them to the roster in freehand. Philadelphia signed ex-Rockets PJ Tucker and Daniel House and in October The league took away its second-round picks in 2023 and 2024 after an investigation found it had held talks with Tucker and House before being allowed to do so.

In a recent Fox Sports feature by Yaron Weitzman, Sixers President Daryl Morey said that Harden and Embiid “talk to each other more than any superstar combo I’ve ever had together.” In the same story, Harden said, “Honestly, the only thing I’m missing is a championship.” According to ESPN, Harden could be months away from leaving a team that’s going all out to win a championship to join the team to join, which he left less than two years ago, a team that now has a 9-23 record, the worst in the West and is in the bottom four in the league on both offense and defense.

Harden turns 34 in August. 20-year-old Jalen Green, 21-year-old Jabari Smith Jr. and 20-year-old Alperen Sengun make up the Rockets’ current core. Those timelines don’t seem to add up at all, but we’ve seen something like this before: When LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Kyrie Irving was 22 and both Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson were 23.

However, James didn’t return to Cleveland just to play with a bunch of kids. The Cavs traded 21-year-old Anthony Bennett and 18-year-old Andrew Wiggins — then the last two No. 1 picks in the draft — for Kevin Love. Months later, they traded Waiters in a deal that brought back JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. If Harden wants to return in a similar fashion, the Rockets will have to ask themselves not only whether or not they want to get back into the beard business, but whether or not they want to give up their rebuild attempt to build an immediate contender. The higher their picks in the 2023 draft, the more interesting this discussion will be.

In 17 games this season, Harden averaged 21.4 points, 10.9 assists and 6.6 rebounds in 37.8 minutes, with a 25.7 percent utilization rate and 58.1 percent true shot percentage. He would lead the league in assists if he played enough games to qualify.

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