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Is James Harden headed back to the Houston Rockets after Game 7 flameout?

James Harden could be on his way out of Philadelphia and returning to Houston this summer.

HOUSTON — Quickly after a blowout Game Seven loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the fate of James Harden in free agency is once again in focus, with the Houston Rockets the most likely destination should he change teams.

In a Tuesday episode of Locked on Rockets, host Jackson Gatlin was joined by Rockets reporter Ben DuBose to discuss whether Harden is still a fit to return to Houston and how the results of the NBA Draft lottery could affect the Rockets’ interest.

“For (Philadelphia’s) run to end the way it did yesterday … that might be the perfect-storm scenario for him to first off want to leave,” DuBose said. “We know the ties that Houston has to him.”

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While Rockets lovers are understandably excited about the potential return of one of the best players in franchise history, the version of Harden who could arrive in Houston this summer is not the one who won MVP for this team.

“There’s some fans who are super gung-ho on the idea of bringing James Harden back, period,” Gatlin said. "I think some of those fans are maybe caught in the nostalgia of the old James Harden, and he’s not that guy anymore as evidenced by the playoffs.”

Harden was 3-11 from the field with five turnovers in Game Seven in Boston. He has dealt with lingering hamstring injuries the past three seasons and will turn 34 this summer.

Harden may not be worth his maximum salary anymore, but a reduced deal could make sense for the Rockets, Gatlin said.

“The calculus changes a lot for me if you are able to get James Harden on a discounted deal … because that to me doesn’t actually pigeonhole you for the foreseeable future as the young guys come into their own,” Gatlin explained.

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