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Houston Strip Clubs Rejoice: James Harden Potentially Returning To The Rockets Is Picking Up Steam

Tim Warner. Getty Images.

The rumors that James Harden could potentially find his way back to Houston this summer aren't exactly new. We've been hearing about that for some time, even before the playoffs began. At the time I didn't really put much stock into it, because a guy with a player option who wants a long term deal this summer needs to play the leverage game. That's how things work in the NBA. 

But now, after losing in the 2nd round and no showing Games 6 & 7, based off the latest reporting it certainly seems like this idea actually has some merit to it

The belief among NBA executives is that James Harden will rejoin the Houston Rockets this summer.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta “loves” the 76ers point guard. The franchise expects to reunite with him, sources say. Before hiring Ime Udoka on April 25, head coaching candidates were asked for their opinion on coaching Harden during the interview process, according to sources. 

Sources have said his interest in returning to Houston is mutual and not a ploy to get a lucrative deal out of the Sixers. His mother still lives in the city. He has several business ventures there. And, as one source said, “he’s treated like a god in Houston.”

OK, so this is pretty big for a couple reasons.

For starters, depending on who you believe, there's reporting out there that Harden was one of the voices that went into the decision to fire Doc

If that's the case and Harden still leaves, woof. That's tough. Part of me feels like Harden is maybe being used as the scapegoat for that. Why would Harden care who is coaching the Sixers if he is no longer going to be playing for the Sixers? I'm not sure that adds up. So I guess we have a #sourceoff with this? Is he leaving or did he get Doc fired because he's staying and wants a different coach?

Secondly, this is a move where all the Rockets have to do is cut the check. They have around $60M in cap space this summer, so they in no way need to work out some sort of sign and trade to bring Harden in. All they need to do is agree on a price if that's where Harden wants to go. That's a problem for the Sixers because they have no real way to replace him. They don't have cap space, they don't have a Ben Simmons this time around, and realistically the only big money contract they have in Tobias Harris probably isn't bringing you back a blue chip player. Not just because of his talent, but also because he's an expiring deal. 

Given how he performed in the postseason, I imagine there are some Sixers fans who don't give a shit if he leaves. Build around Maxey and Embiid and hope Daryl Morey can work some magic from there. 

On the Rockets side, this would be a fascinating move. It's clear that if these reports are true, Harden just wants to go somewhere that requires zero pressure to win. That's Houston. I have no idea how he's going to react to Ime Udoka the first time Ime calls him out publicly and basically refuses to cater to him. He is not Mike D'Antoni, Steve Nash, or Doc Rivers. Ime gives zero fucks who you are. I cannot imagine he'd be thrilled to coach a guy who doesn't really try on defense. That has "early quit factor" written all over it the second Ime actually holds James responsible for his play.

Talent wise, maybe there's some value in their young guards learning from one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, but that's assuming everything goes great. Can we really expect that at this stage of Harden's career? 

Really, the only true winners here are the Houston area strip clubs. You just know they are going to bust out the I'm Coming Home tribute the first time Harden steps foot in his old stomping grounds. 

Of course, until we get to July and he puts pen to paper, this is all just speculation. Usually where there's this much smoke for this long of a timeframe there's usually some fire behind it, and who knows what the domino effects might be if this actually happens. What does this mean for Embiid? What does this mean for Maxey? It's going to be a wild summer, that's for sure