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Stephen A. Smith says James Harden, Jimmy Butler have been ‘talking to one another’

Rockets, James Harden, Jimmy Butler

ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith says Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler have been “talking to one another.”

Butler becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer once he declines his 2019-20 player option with the Sixers. The Rockets don’t have the cap space to sign Butler to the max contract he’ll command unless they make some trades this summer.

Houston reportedly is making point guard Chris Paul, center Clint Capela and shooting guard Eric Gordon available in trade talks this offseason.

“I’m hearing that James Harden and Jimmy Butler have been talking to one another,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take on Monday. “We’ll see how that unfolds.”

The Rockets tried to acquire Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the beginning of the season after Butler requested a trade from Minnesota. Butler, a four-time All-Star and an elite two-way wing, averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists with the Timberwolves and Sixers this season while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from beyond the arc and 85.5 percent from the free-throw line.

After the Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs in six games, multiple reports have surfaced claiming Harden and Paul aren’t getting along behind the scenes. Houston isn’t going to trade Harden under any circumstance. If general manager Daryl Morey can find a team to take the contract of Paul, Harden might be able to recruit Butler to the Rockets.