NBA Rumor: James Harden Free Agency

61 rumors in this storyline

The Sixers undoubtedly would love to work out a similar deal with Harden. The question is if Harden will go for it. “This is going to define Daryl,” said the exec. “The trade has not worked out the way he had hoped. If he messes this up and James leaves, where does that leave them? If he overpays him, how do they build a winner? He knew James better than anybody. He knew his lifestyle, he knew where his body was at. He had to have some level of knowledge about where this was going. He loves the guy. He’s loyal to the guy. I get that. But you have to separate from that when making these decisions.”

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It’s not that simple. Embiid knows it. “Everybody expected the Houston James Harden,” Embiid said. “That’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a playmaker.” Harden knows it. The rest of the NBA knows it. “The decline is evident,” a rival team executive told SI. “You can see it in his ability to create space, to create the shots he would usually generate. He doesn’t have the burst. People aren’t scared of him driving and scoring. They are challenging that step back more frequently. He’s just not the same player.”

He’s not, but Harden, who will turn 33 this summer, enters the offseason with leverage. He has until June 29 to opt into the final year of his contract, a decision that would guarantee him $47.4 million next season. He could bet on himself, that a healthy summer and a full training camp with Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle will lead to a more productive season. It’s a risk—Harden’s hamstring issues have become chronic, and he could get hurt or his regression could continue—but it’s a stick he could use in negotiations. Because what is Philadelphia going to do? Allowing Harden to opt in and play out his contract makes some business sense. But Harden has effectively quit on two teams when he didn’t like what was happening. Philadelphia, desperate to maximize the MVP-level seasons of Embiid, doesn’t want to be a third.

Morey has routinely referred to Harden as the greatest isolation player in NBA history and believed the chance to play with a dominant scoring big like Embiid—the type of player Morey and Harden talked about but were never able to bring to Houston—would energize him. It didn’t. Harden averaged 21 points per game during the regular season. His field goal percentage (40.2%) and three-point percentage (32.6%) were career lows. His numbers in the playoffs were comparable. For every brilliant game Harden played (a 22-point, 15-assist effort in Game 6 against Toronto, a 31-point outburst in Game 4 against Miami) there were twice as many clunkers. In Philly’s last two games, Harden attempted 22 shots, scored 25 points and had nearly as many turnovers (eight) as assists (13). While ex-Sixer Jimmy Butler carried his team—“I still don’t know why we let him go,” said a still-salty Embiid—Harden was little more than a bystander on his.

Sixers not giving James Harden a max contract?

Get Up: @WindhorstESPN says to pump the brakes on Harden returning to Philadelphia next season with a max deal. “Nobody in the NBA believes that the Sixers are going to give James Harden a max contract.”

James Harden has a $47.4 million player option heading into next season. If he exercises it, he would become eligible to extend with the Sixers for up to four years, $222.8 million starting on August 10, 2022. It was previously reported that he planned on exercising the option but it appears that he will decline it and enter free agency instead. If he does that, Harden will be eligible to re-sign with the Sixers for up to five years projected at $269.9 million. If he were to join a new team via free agency, he would be eligible for up to four years, $200.1 million.

Amare Stoudemire: If I'm the owner of the 76ers, I can't commit to giving James Harden a max deal

Nets coach and former NBA big man Amar’e Stoudemire recently slammed Harden, saying that he does not deserve to receive a max deal from the Sixers. “I can’t commit to that,” he said of offering James Harden a max deal. “If I’m the owner of the Sixers, I cannot commit to giving him a max deal. I just don’t see the dedication that I would need to see from my top 75 player. You have to be able to have a certain level of determination and focus on being the best player you can possibly be and also be there for your teammates when they need you the most. … If he’s not capable of doing that as a max player, I’m not going to be willing to now give you a max contract if you’re not showing me that you can handle the situation.”

“So here’s my second conspiracy theory,” said Zach Lowe on his podcast. “This one, James Harden himself just debunked, if you care about what is said at press conferences. So James Harden, it was reported I think by The Athletic, that James Harden opted in as part of his trade to Philadelphia. Then it was reported hours later that he in fact had not opted in. Then it was reported days later that the reason he had not opted in was that he just missed the deadline to file the paperwork with the NBA league office. The fax got stuck in the machine. Or the signature couldn’t be found or something. “Here’s the conspiracy. This is the one going around the league that James Harden, to be clear, just debunked. He’s going to decline his option, re-sign for less money, so that Philadelphia can dump Tobias Harris into somebody’s cap space and open up if they dump some other people an almost, almost, almost max slot for a third star. That’s the one that’s going around the league. And people who say that are like, ‘If that happens, some eyebrows at the league office might be raised.’

Chris Haynes: Some front office executives are prepared to… when the time comes, if a deal does look like is about to transpire where there could be some potential sign-and-trade in the offseason… They’re prepared to get the league involved on a potential collusion case dating back to what they what they believe could be going on right now, you know as to why we’re probably hearing a lot of Philadelphia, James Harden talk. I was told there will be complaints issued to the league on try to investigate to see if there was any collusion.

Like it may also be coming from there, but I’ve heard this. I’m sure you have to, like it’s other people around the league who are not part of Brooklyn’s, uh, franchise or part of the Sixers, who have said they’re hearing that James Harden is looking around wondering what his other options may be and eyeing Philly because of the obvious. Relationship with Daryl Morey, trust there from other years in Houston together. Hardens also tight with Michael Rubin, one of the Sixers owners, no mystery about this stuff, but I was hearing an entire case being made for why Harden might go to Philly this summer and it’d have to be via sign and trade of course, from an executive who is not with either of these franchises.

“I don’t know about any reports,” Harden said. “Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy, there’s a lot of inconsistencies for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it’s frustrating. I think everyone in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is, and we should be on the way up. That’s all it is. I don’t know anything about any reports. If you didn’t hear it from me, I don’t talk to nobody. I have an agent. If you don’t hear it from me, then it’s reports, So I’m frustrated because I wanna win and I’m a competitor. It’s pretty simple.”

Nets coach Steve Nash’s fluid rotations have also disappointed Harden, sources told B/R. Nash has favored hot-hand closing lineups, rather than a fixed crunch-time unit.  His new city could also be an issue. According to multiple sources, Harden has not enjoyed living in Brooklyn, compared to his days as a central Houston magnate. Outside of the change in climate, the chasm between state taxes in New York versus Texas is quite obvious as well.

If Harden opts into his player option for next season, he becomes eligible for a four-year, $227.2 million extension, which in total would give him a five-year, $274.7 million contract. If Harden opts out and the Nets re-sign him with his Bird Rights, the max he could make is $270 million over five years. The Sixers would prefer Harden opt out, because it doesn’t require the Nets’ participation to bring The Beard farther down Interstate 95. But given that Harden’s next contract will likely be the final big deal of his career, doing so makes no sense for him. Should Harden opt out and sign with another team in free agency, the max he could get is a four-year, $200.1 million deal. In short, unless Harden wants to leave $74 million on the table, the logical way he would change teams, if he chooses to do so, is through a sign-and-trade.

76ers all in for James Harden?

According to sources, Harden and his camp have maintained a close relationship with Morey. In addition, Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin is also tight with Harden and his friends. Harden’s close friend and rapper Lil Baby was even on hand when Rubin, Meek Mill and the Sixers hosted 25 youths from the Philadelphia area before their Dec. 15 game against the Miami Heat. Together, the group provided a Wells Fargo Center experience through the REFORM Alliance for young people who have been adversely affected by criminal justice.

Summer possibility: James Harden to Philly, Ben Simmons to Brooklyn?

Winning without Simmons certainly makes it easier for Embiid to adopt that stance … and Philadelphia will be going for its 11th victory in 13 games Monday afternoon at Washington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Perhaps he 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.

James Harden quite open to changing teams again

Complicated is a polite description for such a deal, since the Sixers would be hard-capped by taking Harden in via sign-and-trade and would thus have to shed more salary than just Simmons’ contract according to the league’s luxury-tax rules to make it work financially. 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.

James Harden on contract extension: I just want to focus on winning the championship

While planning their summer roster moves, the Rockets “plan” to take a step that will allow them to tell potential free agents that star guard James Harden will not be going anywhere. For the second consecutive season, the Rockets intend to offer Harden a contract extension long before he could hit free agency, a person will knowledge of the team’s plans said Tuesday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team’s intentions have not been made public.

For now, it is less likely that Harden might consider the extension this summer than Westbrook, league sources told The Vertical. Harden might prefer to wait until closer to his free agency and continue to evaluate the Rockets’ ability to develop into a championship contender, sources told The Vertical. Harden has a massive adidas shoe deal that guarantees him great earning power beyond his NBA contract. What’s more, the Rockets are under no obligation to offer him the extension this summer.
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