This week, James Harden may be asked sly questions about his future with the Philadelphia 76ers, just like he did in a lighthearted response during his time in Houston.
Will Harden stay with the 76ers for a third season, though, is a genuine concern in Philadelphia.
By declining his $35.6 million option on Thursday, Harden will become an unrestricted free agency this summer, according to all indications. The 10-time All-Star and 2018 NBA MVP is now free to join any team.
Getting back to the Rockets? Maybe if he chooses to pursue a championship over financial gain. The Sixers? Depends. Does Harden genuinely relish being NBA MVP Joel Embiid’s backup player?
Perhaps Harden’s plans didn’t extend much further than a potential Houston reunion or Sixers comeback. The 76ers have the option to give Harden a four-year, $210 million contract, which is $8 million more than what any other team can give. Philadelphia has the home-contract advantage.
But Harden still feels a strong connection to Houston, the city where he developed into a surefire Hall of Famer.
The 76ers’ new head coach, Nick Nurse, who was appointed earlier this month to take over from Doc Rivers, wants to work with Harden.
In spite of lingering left Achilles pain and playing through it for the past few months, Harden, who will turn 34 in August, has only shown glimmers of his former Houston stardom. In the Eastern Conference Semifinal defeat to Boston, he scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 points in Game 4, but he was 0 for 6 from beyond the arc in Game 2 and Game 6. In Game 7, he only managed to score nine points, and the second half saw him go scoreless.
In the event that Harden decides to leave the Sixers and sign elsewhere, the team has few viable replacements because of salary cap restrictions. As Harris enters the last year of a five-year, $180 million contract, the Sixers are also considering trade offers for him. In contrast to NBA scoring champion Embiid, Harden, and Tyrese Maxey, Harris averaged 14.7 points per game last season.
Popularity would occasionally decline as production did.
In the playoffs, where they were dispatched in the second round for a third consecutive year, the Sixers’ cookie definitely fell flat. It has been 22 seasons since the franchise advanced to the Eastern Conference finals thanks to an early exit by a 54-game winning team. Rivers was fired as a result.
To devise a strategy that can win the 76ers a championship, Nurse, who won one with Toronto in 2019, is in charge. A total of 300,000 pieces of gear were given free to approximately 100,000 kids and their families in roughly 100 different venues across the nation by Harris and Embiid, who declined to comment on the Fanatics’ benevolence merchandise drive for underprivileged children.