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James Harden told Sixers he would take ‘whatever is left over’ for the team to improve

James Harden

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

James Harden
(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

James Harden told Sixers he would take ‘whatever is left over’ for the team to improve

One of the biggest questions — if not the biggest — for the Philadelphia 76ers entering the 2022 offseason was whether or not James Harden would be with team, and if he was, what his price tag was going to be.

After getting acquired by the Sixers just hours before the trade deadline last season, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game, knocking down 40.2 percent of his attempts, including 32.6 percent from 3-point range and 89.2 percent from the free-throw line.

However, throughout the season, Harden — coming off a hamstring injury suffered in the playoffs prior — noticeably lacked the requisite burst that allowed him to generate quality rim pressure that ultimately helped him draw fouls (via grifting or otherwise). His drives and rim-attempt frequency were both down, while his free-throw attempts on a per-possession basis were slightly up from 2020-21 but were still among the lowest marks of his career.

He ultimately looked like a shell of himself in the final two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Miami Heat after a revitalized Game 4, in which he had 31 points on 8-of-18 shooting with six triples. In Game 6, he attempted just nine shots, with only two shots (both misses) in the second-half.

With the Sixers’ unceremonious early exit, they once again fell short accomplishing the ultimate goal: a championship. They entered the offseason with a questionable cap-sheet: Harden had a $47.2 million player option, Tobias Harris was on the books for $37.6 million, it just acquired DeAnthony Melton ($8.3 million) on draft night with plenty of others — Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle and Georges Niang — possibly on the block.

To obtain more financial flexibility for team improvement, Harden opted out of his player option. In an exclusive with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes Sunday, Harden said he made it clear to Sixers president Daryl Morey about his decision to opt-out and win.

“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes in an exclusive interview Sunday. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

Quote via Yahoo Sports

With their full mid-level exception — made available from James Harden’s opt-out — Morey inked Heat forward P.J. Tucker at the start of free agency to a three-year, $33 million deal, with an $11.5 million player option on the final year. Sixers star center Joel Embiid praised Tucker’s play during the Heat-Sixers series, saying after that his impact resonated on the defensive end, saying he “plays with so much energy,” lamenting his toughness and physicality.

Morey also signed Danuel House Jr. with their bi-annual exception and added 2021-22 G-League MVP Trevelin Queen before Harden re-signed with a $15 million paycut.

While free agency remains at a standstill as we all await the result of the Kevin Durant-Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, the Sixers have been one of the few teams at the top of the Eastern Conference to considerably bolster their championship odds heading into the 2022-23 season. Harden will need to consistently be better to accomplish that goal, in addition to Embiid’s health — but both will have a better supporting cast tailored around them than last season.

“I talk with Joel frequently and we have meetings about how we’re going to play and what we need to do to help our team win a championship,” Harden told Haynes. “When you have two of the top players at their positions on the same team, that’s a great building block. We’re going to grow together and try to lead this team to the top. I believe we can do it together.

“I think we have a much deeper team … That’s something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we’re positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams.”

Quote via Yahoo Sports


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