James Harden can become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines the player option in his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers for 2023-24. It seems a foregone conclusion that this is going to happen, as the soon-to-be 34-year-old presumably has one more big payday left before Father Time fully catches up to him.
Harden has spoken a lot this year about the financial and basketball sacrifices he made to help facilitate this past year’s Sixers squad, and apparently, he’d like to get some of that stuff back in his next deal. According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Harden is going to try and get a long-term deal that will keep him under contract for four years. And there, there are other important things Harden wants.
The Houston Rockets have long been a rumored destination, but sources say Harden will only entertain suitors that present a competitive roster and the basketball freedom for the star to be himself, sources say.
A reunion with the Rockets has been mentioned as a possibility for months, and Harden has never explicitly shot them down. And while it stands to reason that he’d be given free rein to be himself with the team, Harden said after the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs that he wants a chance to compete, and Houston has struggled to do that in recent years. The team also missed out on the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and wouldn’t be able to pair Harden with Victor Wembanyama, which would have really helped them compete sooner rather than later.
As for Philadelphia, the team has made clear its desire to bring him back. The team has already begun making major moves after it was knocked out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Boston Celtics, as Doc Rivers was let go on Tuesday. In the aftermath of the team’s loss in Game 7, Harden was asked about his relationship with Rivers and said it was “ok.”