James Harden and Kyrie Irving are staying right where they are but are chasing the max amount of money out of the Sixers and Mavericks respectively by playing into the trade rumors.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst certainly thinks this is the case.
“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,” Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective.
“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.”
ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski first reported at Christmas time that Harden may return to Houston and the rumors have barely slowed down since.
Doc Rivers has now been fired, which Harden reportedly had a hand in, so now Harden and Joel Embiid can continue to build in Philly.
The 14-season veteran could exercise the player option on his two-year, $68.6 million contract and enter free agency. But is expected to decline this, so the 76ers will have to bring him back on a new multi-year deal.
As for Kyrie, if the salary cap is $134 million, he would be eligible to re-sign with the Mavs for a five-year, $272 million contract.
LeBron is desperate for Kyrie to come to the Lakers but many believe that Kyrie will go (or stay) where the money goes.
“I hear they had a handshake deal before the trade [with the Brooklyn Nets],” one source told B/R this week. “And Kyrie wouldn’t have said yes to anything less than the max.”
More to come.