Paul George dismisses James Harden signing with Rockets: ‘They made their decision on who the future is’
The rumors connecting James Harden to the Houston Rockets have been circulating for most of this season. Harden famously took a pay cut last summer to return to the Philadelphia 76ers in hopes of winning a championship, but there were whispers he’d want to return to his old home in Houston as a free agent if Philly came up short. The Sixers’ season eventually ended when they lost Game 7 of a second round series against the Boston Celtics, and now all eyes are on Harden as he weighs his decision in free agency.
The Rockets have been one of the worst teams in the NBA since trading Harden. Houston has amassed a solid collection of young talent, led by shooting guard Jalen Green, big man Alperen Sengun, and forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason. What the Rockets don’t have is a point guard, and that’s where Harden could fit in. Of course, the Rockets also own the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and 6’7 point guard Amen Thompson could be the pick.
Does it really make sense for Houston to add Harden to such a young team? Paul George doesn’t think so. The veteran star had Jalen Green on his podcast this week to discuss the Harden rumors, and PG said he thinks Harden going to the Rockets would be a bad fit for everyone involved:
Here are George’s comments, transcribed:
“Personally, I wouldn’t (pursue Harden),” George said with Green as his guest. “At this point, that’s your team. You’re the king of Houston. They made their decision on who the future is. When you pick a guy with the fourth pick, he’s our guy. They full-on committed to who the future is. Like you got to go through this. You got to go through being double-teamed, triple-teamed, being a target every time. You gotta go through that.”
“You bring on someone like James who’s such a ball-dominant player like that’s gonna hinder your growth a little bit. You know what I mean? Regardless of how it can elevate you on another level of him teaching you and you learning off of him, I feel like for you, you’ve already been through the fire. So, let you continue to learn.”
What George is saying makes a lot of sense. Personally, Harden going back to Houston would have felt like a better fit if the Rockets won the lottery and the rights to 7’5 French super prospect Victor Wembanyama. We now know Wembanyama will start his career with the San Antonio Spurs. Whoever the Rockets pick at No. 4 won’t be able to provide immediate help like the French sensation would have.
Harden and the rest of the Rockets’ roster just aren’t on the same timeline. Harden’s game has slipped from when he was annually competing for MVPs, but he’s still an All-Star caliber player who proved he can occasionally turn it up in big moments as he did with massive Game 1 and Game 4 performances against the Celtics in the playoffs. Just don’t ask about how he played the rest of that series.
Harden going to back to the Rockets would be a sign he’s essentially giving up on trying to win a title, and now just wants to make the most money possible after taking a pay cut to play in Philly last year. Cashing in makes sense for Harden on the brink of his 34th birthday, but it makes less sense for Houston. That team still isn’t going to win many games after giving Harden a max deal, and it would likely create an odd locker room dynamic between the young guys and the former superstar.
Maybe Harden is just using the threat of going to Houston as a way to leverage the Sixers into giving him the biggest deal possible? Either way, get ready for another explosive NBA offseason.