The drama around James Harden has continued into training camp and the Sixers remain part of the conversation.
Harden “expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable if a trade with the 76ers materialized” after there was no traction in the Rockets’ discussions with the Nets, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Adrian Wojnarowski.
There have been “no substantive talks about a potential Harden deal” between the Sixers and Rockets, ESPN reports, and Harden “also indicated that there could be other teams that fit his criteria for a preferred destination.”
The Athletic’s Shams Charania had reported last month that the Nets and Sixers were believed to be Harden’s top trade destinations, so this latest news does not come as a massive surprise. Harden's willingness to head to Philadelphia obviously matters, but so does the reported lack of meaningful discussion between the Sixers and Houston at this stage. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey built the Rockets’ roster around Harden during his tenure in Houston before stepping down in October and joining the Sixers approximately two weeks later.
The 31-year-old Harden, who arrived in Houston on Tuesday, is under contract for two more seasons with a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23.
It’s been a murky, messy situation, much like the saga with Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves that eventually ended with the Sixers acquiring Butler in the first big move of general manager Elton Brand’s tenure, though Harden reporting to Houston seems like a small positive step for the Rockets.
ESPN reports that Houston sees a fair asking price for Harden as “a package that includes a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round picks and/or talented players on rookie contracts.”
Morey has been very committed to the pairing of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in comments to reporters, and he's constructed the roster to enhance the shooting and spacing around the All-Star duo through trades for Seth Curry and Danny Green.
“… Obviously Joel and Ben are going to be here a long time,” he said on Nov. 19, “and we feel like all the guys we took (in the draft) are very good fits with those guys.”
If the Rockets stand firm in what they’re looking for, the Sixers would need to part with a star and a heap of other assets to acquire the 2017-18 MVP. It’s not out of the question that they’ll consider it and will engage in more serious trade talks with the Rockets. That said, Harden’s openness to the Sixers is certainly not an indication on its own that Houston will deal him to Philadelphia.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers made it clear Tuesday that he's pleased with his current team when asked about trade rumors.
“You’re not hearing them from us," he said. "As long as you don’t hear them from us, you should be very comfortable. We like our team, man. I tell you, that team I just watched out there is pretty special. Those rumors, none are coming from us.”