A Christmas day miracle, James Harden considering a return to the Rockets

N.B. Lindberg
Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers
Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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There hasn’t been a lot of holiday cheer for the Houston Rockets. They’re in last place in the western conference and have the third-worst record in the league. After winning four of six games, the Rockets have dropped their past five games, all of which have been at home. As of today, no franchise needs good news more than the Rockets and did they ever get some. 

A James Harden Christmas day Woj-Bomb

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Christmas day that James Harden is considering a return to Houston if he enters free agency in the summer of 2023. Wojnarowski still makes it clear that the likeliest scenario would see Harden stay in Philadelphia. However, Harden’s camp has expressed an affinity for a return to Houston. Such a move would be a dramatic turnaround, as it was only two years ago he forced a trade away from the franchise. 

Harden signed a two-year, $68.6 million contract with a second-year player option, commonly referred to as a one-plus-one contract, with the Philadelphia 76ers over the summer. Star players have used one-plus-one deals to pressure organizations to build a winner and take advantage of a rising salary cap. 

The Sixers’ fate in the playoffs could alter Harden’s thinking, according to Wojnarowski. It is believed a deep playoff run would be enough to keep Harden in Philadelphia for the long term, while an early exit could see him explore other options. After spending eight seasons in Houston, Harden has played for three different teams over the past three seasons. He joined the Sixers last season in a blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets only a season after joining the Nets in a blockbuster with the Rockets. 

While Harden has been highly productive in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, he has failed to come close to replicating the heights he did in Houston. According to Wojnarowski’s reporting, sources told him Harden remains “drawn to the community, lifestyle and family [in Houston].” The Rockets can open up as much as $72 million in cap space in the 2023 offseason, more than enough to fit in a maximum-scale contract.  

If the Rockets and Harden want a reunion, everything is in place financially for it to come together. A Christmas day Woj-bomb could be the harbinger for Christmas in July if the Rockets and James Harden decide to renew their vows. 

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