If you follow James Harden or the Houston Rockets, you've likely realized one thing: it's impossible to run from the rumors of the two reuniting and making up for lost time. The desire for the ex-lovers to spin the block makes sense, as the Rockets need a proven floor general after coming to the realization that the Kevin Porter Jr. point-guard experience was unsuccessful.
The Rockets also need veterans, as their team is littered with youth, due to them being forced to rebuild through the draft.
As for Harden, a return to Houston would grant him a return to the lifestyle that he covets and likely misses. In other words, both parties seemingly need each other.
In spite of that, the latest on the Harden-to-Houston front suggests that it's time to pump the brakes on the two lovers getting back together and trying to make it work. The Action Network's Matt Moore dropped a report on Sunday that essentially stated that the Rockets realize their fantasy of getting back with their ex may have been a ploy by the former all along.
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"After the Harden-back-to-Houston talk reached a fever pitch three weeks ago, there now seems to be a certain amount of skepticism coming from Houston. There’s concern that they were being used to leverage the 76ers into something closer to a max deal either in money or years."
This has very much been a possibility all along, and it shouldn't be a surprise. Harden took a pay cut last season for Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers and surely wants to recoup what he lost or at least make up for it financially.
The Sixers saw Harden miss 24 games this season and noticed his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation during the Eastern Conference Semifinals and have reservations about giving Harden his full $200 million max. Harden and his representation needed to up the ante for Morey and the Sixers' front office, if he hoped to land a max deal.
Doing this would seem to be challenging, as Harden led the league in assists, while shooting his best clip from long-range since 2011-12 (38.5 percent). So to drive up the offer, Harden had to utilize the Rockets' league-leading $60 million in cap space and drum up his interest in returning to the Space City to the media.
The Houston lifestyle doesn't trump playing alongside an MVP in Joel Embiid, not to mention being granted the opportunity to play for a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Sixers aren't interested in giving Harden the max, which isn't surprising, for reasons listed above.
The Rockets surely know this and are bidding against themselves, meaning they don't have a reason to break the bank if the Sixers aren't. And these two teams have been the main ones linked to Harden.
So with Harden not receiving a max offer from either the Sixers or the Rockets, it would be tempting for him to not stay in Philly. From the Rockets' standpoint, if this is how this has all played out, they should be okay with missing out on Harden.
Because this would mean that he never had legitimate interest in the franchise, outside of an overpay, to make up for Morey asking him to take a paycut.