AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast
James Harden may not be committed to the Brooklyn Nets in the long run.
NBA insider Mark Stein reports (via Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia) that a Harden move may not be out of the question for the Philadelphia 76ers because “there’s enough hype circulating about Harden being open to a move this summer.”
Harden has a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23, so he could sign up with Brooklyn for next season. It seems more likely that the All-Nine-Star would prefer a higher payout in the long run because his earning capacity may be at its peak.
In October, he downplayed the failure to work on an extension with Nets.
“I am not planning to leave this organization and the situation we are in,” he told reporters. “So my focus, frankly, is just to focus on the season and then win the championship. The contract and all those things will prove themselves, but my focus will be on this season.”
The Nets had to deal with the drama of Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status, but it didn’t affect the team’s performance on the court much.
Brooklyn is second in the Eastern Conference at 27-15 and current bookie favorite (+260) in FanDuel to win the 2022 NBA Finals.
Likewise, Harden ditched a slow start to look more like his usual self. He averaged 22.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and an NBA high of 10.0 assists.
The 32-year-old put on one of his best performances in a 138-112 overall win over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls on January 12. He scored 25 points – shot 5 of 8 from outside the arc – and dropped 16 assists.
Harden seems to have everything he wants with a net.
During his eight-plus seasons with the Houston Rockets, he enjoyed the kind of power and influence he’s unlikely to wield over a roster that includes Irving and Kevin Durant. The rockets bowed backwards to please their best players.
Especially if he gets the championship that eluded him in Houston, Harden may feel more prepared to examine his options. A reunion with Sixers basketball chief Daryl Morey makes sense, or he could look to cement his title contender, as Durant and Irving did with their move to Brooklyn.
When they traded Harden, the Nets probably thought there was little threat of him leaving when he qualified for free agency this summer. Based on Stein’s report, it could be a real threat instead.
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