NBA rumors: James Harden trade saga takes a curious turn after start of season

SixersJames Harden trade pursuit takes a curious turn originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers have been linked to disgruntled Rockets superstar James Harden more than any team in the league, but weeks into the 2020-21 NBA regular season, it sounds like their pursuit of Harden has taken on a different look.

Harden and the Rockets sit 13th in the Western Conference, but The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor is reporting that he might not be as desperate to leave Houston as he seemed a month ago.

From O’Connor on Monday:

“Front office executives around the NBA say Houston is growing more confident that Harden will be content to stick around at least through the rest of the season.”

Hmm. It’s important to note that O’Connor followed that sentiment up by saying that Harden still “prefers to be dealt”, but the idea that tensions and trade desires have cooled is intriguing.

The Rockets have an odd but theoretically powerful Big Three in Harden, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins, and while the early returns haven’t bowled anyone over, it takes time for new teammates to gel. Perhaps Harden likes what he’s seen early from the team, and thinks they have long-term potential this season.

Or, in a situation that I think is more likely, maybe teams have stopped clamoring for Harden’s services, and this has been communicated to Harden.

The Sixers seemed to be at the front of the line for Harden before the season began, but after 10 games (including one odd and unfair loss) they’re first in the East and, when fully healthy, have looked like a legit contender for a conference title. Is it possible that Sixers President of Basketball Operations is encouraged by his team’s hot start and has, at least for now, cooled on the idea of trading for Harden?

Ben Simmons isn’t hampering the team on offense, and his defense is still DPOY candidate-level great. Seth Curry is bringing the ball handler/offense generator/catch-and-shoot skillset that Harden would bring (at a higher level, but still). And a possible key piece in a theoretical Harden trade, rookie Tyrese Maxey, has looked like a steal through 10 games. All reasons to wait on a swap.

There are a number of factors at work here, and there’s still a chance that one day the Rockets decide to finally pull the trigger on an offer.

But for now the rumblings have certainly quieted.

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