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Some people within the Philadelphia 76ers organization reportedly “would not mind at all” if James Harden left the team this summer.
An unnamed NBA general manager told Sean Deveney of Heavy: “I don’t think he will, but he could, and even if he doesn’t, he is not going to get a real long deal from the Sixers. He is getting older, you don’t know how much of a commitment you want to make him.”
The 33-year-old Harden is averaging 21.0 points, 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game for the 76ers, who have clinched the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed this year.
The 10-time All-Star will become a free agent this summer if declines his $35.6 million player option.
Deveney dropped that GM comment about Harden amid a longer 76ers report centered around Tyrese Maxey, who could be in line for a long-term deal to stay in town.
“Executives around the league increasingly are saying that Maxey is headed for a max contract extension with the Sixers,” Deveney wrote.
The NBA GM added: “They have a lot of big contracts they’re dealing with obviously. But they’re going to have to make him another one. He’s a max guy.”
Expanding on Maxey’s position within the organisation compared to Harden, the GM said: “[Maxey] is a culture-setter. He works hard, he is relentless. He has fit in with whoever they put him with, that is not easy to do in this league. Moving forward, they want him to be a face-of-the-franchise kind of guy. He has the talent. They have the belief in him. It is only a matter of time, really.”
Maxey, 22, is posting 20.3 points on 48.1 percent shooting this year.
Maxey is eligible for a rookie extension after this season. As of now, though, he’s under contract through 2024 after the team picked up his club option for next year.
Rumors have surfaced this year that Harden would be interested in going back to the Houston Rockets, where he enjoyed his greatest career success and even won the 2017-18 MVP award.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Dec. 25 that Harden was “seriously considering” a return to Houston if he did not re-sign with Philadelphia. Deveney backed those rumors in his latest piece, writing that “there continues to be talk” about the possibility.
On the surface, it may be hard to see why Harden would want to return to Houston, which has bottomed out since he left with the second-worst record in the NBA.
However, they also have a host of young and exciting talent with great potential, such as Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and Alperen Şengün. They will also get another high lottery pick this year.
If Harden leaves, that gives Philadelphia the chance to build around their superstar in Embiid plus a young and ascending star in Maxey, who could well develop into an NBA All-Star.
The 76ers are squarely in contention this year for an NBA title largely because of Harden, but it’s possible both sides could be moving on after the playoff run.
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