By Mike Grimm

Earlier this season, James Harden told SLAM:

“I’m a master of this game. This is year 14 for me — I adjust to how teams are guarding us, and I pick and choose where to facilitate. My role on the Sixers is different from 2017. So yes, the approach is different, but I’m still the same player as 2017, my role just changed slightly.”

For year 15, Harden is preparing to change his tune.

Reports have circulated for months that he prefers a Houston reunion.

Houston is in the midst of a youth movement. New coach Ime Udoka preaches accountability, somewhat ironically considering he was running around the Celtics organization Eric Beneting himself out of a job. But defensively, Udoka demanded effort and discipline, habits Harden can’t be a role model for a group that needs positive influences.

Offensively, Udoka implored Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to share the ball and make the extra pass. Harden’s ball dominance is even harder to stomach as his skills decline.

This is the stage of his career where he wants to collect checks and offer a daily supply of nostalgia with Mike D’Antoni iso-ball. Harden wanting to live out his golden basketball years just running the same broken basketball isos that made him a regular-season offensive gawd is extremely on-brand. I’d be disappointed if he did chase a title. Philly fans wanted more though. They wanted a Type A Jimmy Butler-caliber playoff leader.

Harden’s broken free from the constraints of the sports talk debate disease that’s infected modern NBA stars with the belief that their careers were useless without a ring. Harden isn’t ring-chasing for our approval. Unfortunately, most teams aren’t paying top dollar for a Harlem Globetrotter show though.

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