Rockets legend questions James Harden's priorities, desire to win title

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Six
Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Six / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Heading into the NBA's offseason period, one thing was clear: James Harden's desire to return to the Houston Rockets. Harden's return started out as a Christmas Day rumor and morphed into a surety, due to the countless and endless reports. 

It was going to happen. 

Harden was going to spin the block and get back with his ex-lover- the Houston Rockets.

I was so sure that I began scrummaging through the ashes and rubbery to see if I still had my old Harden jerseys (and wondering if I could still squeeze into them). 

The reunion was perplexing to many (myself included) because Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers were just on the cusp of reaching the Conference Finals, which would've been his first time getting back there since 2017-18, in which the Rockets were unable to fend off the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

Both Harden and the Rockets had made amends in spite of their grotesque break-up that was made official in 2021, after Harden told his long-time partner that they weren't good enough. The two parties were unblocking each other and ready to erase the past.

However, the romance died down as soon as Ime Udoka entered the love triangle, as Udoka reportedly was the impetus of the Rockets' deviation from Harden, proving to be too indestructible of a force for even Cupid.

Harden eventually opted into the final year of his contract with the Sixers, exercising his $35.6 million player option, in hopes of landing a trade, with the LA Clippers reportedly at the top of his list.

But former Rockets great and NBA Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady is still struggling to understand Harden's trade request, not to mention his flirtation with the Rockets. After all, the Rockets shouldn't be nearly as attractive a lover as the Sixers, which McGrady explained on The Wheelhouse with Jake Asman, Cody Stoots, & Brad Kellner on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 FM Houston.

Rockets' great questions James Harden's competitive spirit

"For the life of me....James is in a great position. And I just don't know how you would want to leave a guy that won MVP last season. You're in a great position. Your coach is gonna allow you to play your style of basketball.

It really just didn't make sense to go and join a young team that is many years from really winning a championship or even competing for one. You're right there in the situation that you wanna be in and it seems like you're running from that.

Now we don't know why James wants to get out. It could be some internal stuff that is just not being said or being put out, but from a basketball standpoint, I don't even know how you even leave there and go find a place that even remotely close to the situation that you're in, in terms of winning a championship. You're in a great spot."

Joel Embiid, who T-Mac mentions, has publicly clamored for Harden to return to the city of Brotherly Love, which is a stark contrast from his response to Ben Simmons' trade request in 2021. Harden's former Rockets teammate, Patrick Beverley (who also flirted with the Rockets this offseason) has followed in Embiid's footsteps, clamoring for the 2017-18 MVP and three-time scoring champion to return to the Sixers.

As for the Rockets, they pivoted to Fred VanVleet, giving him a three-year deal worth upto $130 million, which would make even Harden jealous. The move, along with the Rockets' signing of Jeff Green, was met with McGrady's approval, which he explained.

"You need that veteran leadership. The league is extremely young and you need guys that can really show these young guys the right way. Fred has won a championship, Jeff Green is coming off winning a championship with Denver this year. 

Having that veteran experience and really showing the young guys the right way. Because I'm sure last season was just a dismal season for them and was pretty frustrating for them. So now you've got some guys that can really show them how to be true professionals and how to approach the game night in and night out. That was a great signing for the Rockets, on their part."

It remains to be seen just what will happen to Harden after the Rockets left him hanging at the altar.