Christmas came and went, but not without some bombshell news stories. It was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that James Harden “is seriously considering a return to the Houston Rockets in free agency this July — if he decides against a new deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.” You can see what James had to say about that.
Both before and after the Sixers’ win on Sunday, Harden was asked about the report.— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) December 25, 2022
His comments can be found here: https://t.co/b3hu2TZ74e
Harden is averaging 20.6 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, and shooting 39% from distance in the month of December, following a month long absence. But if the Beard, who has put on a bit of a show lately, truly has a wandering eye, he probably wouldn’t let us know directly. He didn’t last season.
“If you didn’t hear it from me, like I don’t talk to nobody, I don’t have an agent, if ya’ll don’t hear from me, than it’s reports. I’m frustrated because I want to win, and I’m a competitor, it’s pretty simple.”— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) January 26, 2022
-Harden on recent reports he has 'increased interest' in a trade pic.twitter.com/BrP2elTbTg
But in the wee hours, there was another bit of intel, from SNY’s Ian Begley, who always has his finger on the pulse of things in New York Knicks country.
According to Begley, the Knicks have discussed trading for Sixers sharpshooting forward Tobias Harris.
“One thing worth noting on the trade front is the Knicks have at least talked internally about the idea of acquiring Tobias Harris via trade before their winning streak started. And obviously Harris having a nice game against the Knicks on Christmas Day. Tom Thibodeau spoke highly of him before the game, so that’s just one name to keep an eye on.”
A few notes on NYK’s Christmas Day loss, taking stock two months into the season & club’s previous consideration on PHI’s Tobias Harris here: pic.twitter.com/QsGos85wjg— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) December 25, 2022
Here were the pregame Thibs comments, Begley references:
#Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. “I always thought Tobias Harris is one of the most underrated players in the league.” pic.twitter.com/E5QuvOMsZS— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) December 25, 2022
Back to the Harden thing for a moment, Begley also noted he’s heard things may not have always been smooth between Harden and Embiid, following their second round loss to the Miami Heat:
“I know going back to the offseason, people familiar with the dynamic between Joel Embiid and James Harden said it wasn’t where everybody wanted it to be coming off that last year in Philadelphia.”
On the one hand, it makes sense guys were frustrated after a tough playoff loss. But there did seem to be some tension, didn’t there? The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann hopped on our podcast last offseason and said he felt Embiid was frustrated with The Beard, who fizzled down the stretch of the Heat series, although he wasn’t at full strength.
Here was what Joel said, following the home loss to the Heat, that drew eyebrows:
“Obviously, I’m sure since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, as with all of us, could’ve been more aggressive.”
It was the second year in a row now people have wondered if Embiid was throwing his co-star under the bus following a playoff exit.
Begley continues, drawing a bit of a link between the Embiid-Harden relationship, and Harris’ potential trade market:
“So it’s interesting to see now speculation around Harden and how that impacts the group in Philly. Those two, Embiid and Harden their futures are kind of- will be up in the air, will be much discussed throughout the season, and so that’s something to keep an eye on for the Knicks. But also, particularly to Harris. I know that he does have some fans in the [Knicks] organization. He’s making a lot of money. It would be a big trade to pull off salary wise but it’s at least something that the Knicks had kicked around internally, prior to this past winning streak.”
The Knicks (8 game) winning streak began in early December and came to an end last Wednesday vs. the Toronto Raptors. After dropping three in a row, might they revisit the idea?
Tobi has averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, and 41 percent from distance on 5.5 attempts per game. He’s tasked with a smaller role than he’d probably like but he’s playing some of the best two-way ball of his career. He’s been so good this season he’s made so many fake trades Sixer fans once cooked last summer up look downright awful.
Make of it what you will. Things should begin heating up, rumor wise. They always do this time of year. Our Bryan Toporek explained why the Sixers might be relatively quiet at the deadline not long ago.
But you figure that could possibly change if there were teams calling about Harris. Tobias earns $37.6M this year, and is guaranteed another $39M next. So it’s about time to think about a few choices:
- trading him for someone/s on a longer term deal
- letting him walk for nothing (and likely replacing him with much less talented and cheaper reserves, (since there may not be a ton of cap space anyway if Harden stays, and Tyrese Maxey gets extended)
- or even extending the Long Island native down the road.
Begley notes there are fans of his in the Knicks organization, and that seems pretty important here. I’m not sure which players the Knicks have might appeal to Daryl Morey and Elton Brand. Would they be intrigued by Cam Reddish? Julius Randle? Derrick Rose? Evan Fournier? Mithchell Robinson? Or would this be more of a three-team deal?
Feel free to speculate in our replies.