Is momentum swinging toward Harden staying in Philadelphia?
James Harden and his camp are playing their summer free agency close to the vest, which has led to reports he is torn between re-signing with the Philadelphia 76ers or returning to Houston to be closer to family.
Nothing is certain and the pendulum could swing again in the coming weeks, but momentum seems to be behind Harden returning to the 76ers and contending for a title with Joel Embiid, Zach Lowe of ESPN said on his Lowe Post podcast (hat tip Real GM).
League sources NBC Sports spoke with in the past couple of weeks leaned Houston, but there was not a great confidence level in anyone’s predictions. Harden’s camp is keeping things quiet.
There had been a sense part of the issue in Philadelphia was Harden’s relationship with former coach Doc Rivers, some on Rivers’ staff thought Harden pushed for the coaching change and Rivers was honest in what he saw as Harden’s flaws as a fit next to Embiid in Philly.
New 76ers coach Nick Nurse said he doesn’t “vibrate on the frequencies of the past” and wanted Harden back because they thought they could win. Harden, who opted out of the sweetheart $35.6 million player option he gave team president Daryl Morey and Philadelphia wants to get paid, but he also may feel a sense of loyalty to Morey, who worked for a couple of seasons to get him to the 76ers. Also, with the 76ers Harden can contend — this was the team with the third-best record in the NBA this season — whereas in Houston the team is years away from that level, even with Harden.
Harden doesn’t have to decide until after July 1, so he is not feeling rushed. And there is time for him to change his mind, if it is even made up.