All-Star guard James Harden, who for months has voiced his displeasure with the Houston Rockets and made it known he wants to play for a contender, apparently could be getting his wish soon. ESPN reported Wednesday that the 76ers and Brooklyn Nets are the leading candidates.
ESPN said that Houston is weighing final offers from the Sixers and the Nets. Contacted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Sixers team official declined comment.
Houston coach Stephen Silas said that Harden was not at practice on Wednesday. “We felt it was best for James and best for the group for him not to come to practice,” Silas said.
After a 117-100 Rockets loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the second loss to the defending champions in three days, Harden said the Rockets couldn’t compete with the top teams.
“We’re not even close, honestly, to that team — obviously they are the defending champions — and to all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said. “You can tell the difference in the last two games.”
When asked if he was surprised that the Rockets didn’t make a run at the Lakers in the game, Harden said:
“We are just not good enough, chemistry, talent-wise, just everything and it was clear, like I said these last few games. From the beginning of the game, they were aggressive — veteran team, obviously, championship team and one of the best teams we have in this league.”
Then he made one final statement.
“I love this city,” he said. "I literally have done everything I can. The situation is crazy and something I don’t think can be fixed.”
If the Sixers were to acquire Harden, it is generally assumed that they would have to trade two-time All-Star Ben Simmons. Harden is 31 and Simmons is 24.
Less than a month ago, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey told The Athletic, “We are not trading Ben Simmons.”
It is difficult to imagine the Sixers being able to acquire Harden without giving up either Simmons or Joel Embiid.
Embiid, who has started the season playing at an MVP level, is not going to be traded.
Harden and Simmons could not be dealt straight-up because their salaries would not come close to matching by NBA rules. Simmons is earning $30.5 million in this season, the first of a five-year, $170 million extension.
Counting this season, Harden has three years remaining on his contract for about $133 million. His final season is a player option, but it is for more than $47 million.
Harden is averaging 24.8 points and 10.2 assists in eight games for the Rockets, who are 3-6.(c)2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.