Why did Rockets refrain from granting James Harden a max contract?

James Harden has been known as one of the most outspoken NBA stars, as demonstrated by his recent outburst involving the Philadelphia 76ers’ President. However, he has been notably quiet in recent days, which could explain his absence at the 76ers’ media day.

He made a significant decision to activate the last year of his contract after it seemed that teams were not showing interest in him. The truth is that the Rockets were preparing a deal, but they unexpectedly withdrew their plans, leading to shocking revelations about why they did so.

Harden’s scoring title goal leads to contract snub from Rockets

James Harden, who is an experienced scorer, stirred up the NBA offseason by choosing to remain with the 76ers for the final year of his contract while demanding a trade. Harden made this decision because other teams showed little interest in meeting his $35.6 million salary for the 2023–24 season in free agency.

James Harden
Via Getty

However, there was reportedly one team willing to meet his contract demands, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. On a recent episode of First Take, Smith mentioned that a source he considered to be reliable informed him that the Rockets had planned to offer Harden a max contract. But Houston, along with new coach Ime Udoka, reconsidered when Harden expressed his desire to win another title.

This ambition, prioritizing individual accolades over an NBA championship, seemed to clash with the new coach’s preference for a more team-oriented approach. Harden had won three consecutive NBA scoring titles from 2017 to 2020. However, the three seasons following that, Steph Curry and Joel Embiid led the league in scoring average.

This explains Harden’s desire to leave Philadelphia, as he’s unlikely to secure another scoring title while playing alongside Embiid. However, building a team around a player who averages over 30 points per game didn’t align with Udoka’s vision for his coaching approach.

James Harden returns to Sixers’ training camp

James Harden returned to the Philadelphia 76ers for training camp on Wednesday and participated in most drills. It’s the clearest sign yet for the disgruntled guard, who had been requesting a trade for most part of the offseason. Tobias Harris said, “His participation, in my opinion, is addressing that he’s here. His attitude and energy today made that clear. He wants to compete with us and make things happen.”

James Harden
Via Getty

The new Sixers coach Nick Nurse spoke to Harden before practice and stated, “He looked good, and participated in a majority of it anyway. Looks like he’s physically in good shape.” Despite a strained relationship with President Daryl Morey, the 10-time All-Star joined the practice at the Colorado State campus, skipping the team’s media day in New Jersey on Monday and the first day of camp in Colorado on Tuesday.

However, the 76ers are conducting workouts this week at Moby Arena, home to the Rams’ basketball teams. Harden didn’t speak with reporters on Wednesday, and his teammates understand that this is all part of the business side of basketball.

Shariare Hasib

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Shariare Hasib is an NBA Editor at SportsKnot. With a master's degree in journalism from a prestigious university, Shariare started writing about the sport during his undergraduate years. Since then, he has been fascinated by LeBron James' lasting impact as well as Stephen Curry's incredible consistency. He specializes in live basketball coverage. Apart from reporting on trade speculations and match updates during off-season activities, Shariare frequently interacts with fan communities to stay abreast of the constantly evolving NBA scene.


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