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ESPN’s Windhorst suspects Harden-Rockets rumors are a leverage play

The ESPN analyst believes that James Harden might just be trying to get the biggest deal possible out of the Sixers.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Six Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The James Harden-to-Houston rumors and reports continue to rain down, with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst sharing his thoughts on the latest edition of The Hoop Collective podcast.

“The two big names out on the [free agent] market this year are James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Both of them, at $48 to $50-something million, seem like very bad bets. But, there is a scarcity [of star talent] there.

I also think that both of them, Kyrie showing up to Laker games, James Harden being rumored to be attached to the Rockets, I still think/suspect all of that is one giant leverage play. That, what James Harden really wants is to elicit the biggest offer out of the Sixers even if it isn’t a max [contract]. Whatever the number of money is, for as long as many years as he can get. And that this slow dance for months and these rumors are all sort of tied to that.

And I think that Kyrie could be doing the same exact thing [with the Mavericks]. Just doing all of this, and whatever he may do between now and free agency to try to get the juiciest offer he can from the team he’s on. Cause [the Sixers and Mavericks] face the most damage from losing those guys.”

You can find these quotes around the 28:00 minute mark.

Windhorst made it clear that this is pure speculation, but his opinion holds weight in the James Harden-sphere. Most notably, he was the first reporter to hint at Harden’s departure in Brooklyn. While other big name reporters favor team or agent perspective, Windhorst seemingly doesn’t take much of a side with these topics.

On paper, it would favor both sides for Harden to return to the team on a friendly contract. We’ve seen drastic shifts in his production, and he isn’t getting any younger. On the other hand, the Sixers don’t have a clear avenue to replacing his production easily. He has yet to capture an elusive title, and he certainly isn’t accomplishing that in Houston barring a massive shift with their team.

The Harden reports and rumors won’t stop any time soon, but we’ll soon know the real truth to his future with free agency on the horizon.

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