Philadelphia, June 28 (BNA): James Harden may have side questions this week — like he did in his hilarious reaction to his Houston days — about his future with the Philadelphia 76ers.
But the problem is real in Philly: Will Harden return to the 76ers for a third season?
All signs point to Harden turning down his $35.6 million option Thursday and entering this summer as an unrestricted free agent. That leaves the 2018 NBA MVP and 10-time All-Star free to sign with any team, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Back to rockets? Perhaps, if he prioritized money over chasing championship. The 76? Depends on. Does Harden enjoy playing as a second choice to NBA MVP Joel Embiid? plan c?
Harden may not have planned much beyond a Houston reunion or a Sixers comeback. Philadelphia has the home contract advantage: The 76ers are entitled to offer Harden $210 million, for four years, $8 million more than any other team.
Houston, though, where Harden blossomed into a sure-fire Hall of Famer is a city that still tugs at his heart.
Nick Nurse, who was hired earlier this month to replace Doc Rivers as coach of the 76ers, wants a chance to coach Harden.
“James has a decision to make, and I would be very happy if he came back,” said a nurse when he was appointed.
Tobias Harris, himself in contract trouble this summer, also snagged a Harden running back as he grabbed rebounds and posed for selfies with the kids Tuesday at a promotion for the fanatics.
“There aren’t a lot of guys out there who can go out and knock 40 in a playoff game. I think that’s a little bit off the mark,” Harris said. “I think James is an exceptional player, someone to work without, and someone who’s a great leader in general. Of course, I want him back.”
Harden, who turns 34 in August, has played the past few months with a sore left Achilles tendon and has only glimpsed his prime in Houston. He scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 4 wins from the Eastern Conference Semifinal loss against Boston, and was 0-for-6 in 3 seconds in Game 2 and Game 6. He scored only nine points in Game 7, and that included a no-go. No goals in the second half.
Stuck under the weight of salary cap restrictions, the 76ers have few real options for replacing Harden if he falls elsewhere. Not only that, the Sixers are making trade offers for Harris, who is entering the final season of a five-year, $180 million contract. Harris averaged 14.7 points last season, behind NBA champions Embiid, Harden and Terese Maxi.
Toriel Harris, father and agent of Tobias Harris, has criticized the way the 76ers have used Harris since 2018 and said on the “Works of Sports” podcast that his son was a “scoring killer.”
“I mean, they can’t stop it,” Tauriel Harris said on the podcast. “No one in the league can stop him. So he’s proven that during his career, even when he was with the Clippers.”
Harris has a very expiring contract that the 76ers could be hanging as commercial bait. While his father believes Harris is still a prime scorer, the 76’s forward wants to freeze public negotiations.
“When I’m a dad, I’m going to tell my kid he’s better than LeBron James,” Harris said. “But I also told him as a father and agent not to speak for me when it comes to the media. He obviously has his perspective on this. But that’s not how I feel. I knew going in last year it was my turn and I would have been fourth choice offensively. I was I know that. “
Harris said he was “ok” with the role, and knew that if the 76ers were going to win a championship, he would be the player “to sacrifice from that group.”
At times, declines in production led to a decline in its popularity.
“Commercial speculation, regular Sixers fans, would trade me for a Cookie Crumbl,” he said.
The Sixers’ cookie sure crumbled in the playoffs, as they were eliminated in the second round for the third consecutive season. The early exit for a team that won 54 games marked 22 seasons since the franchise reached the Eastern Conference Finals. It cost Rivers his job.
It’s up to Nurse, who won the Toronto championship in 2019, to find a formula that can win the 76ers a championship.
With or without Harden & Harris.
“I think we have the right talent to be a championship team,” said Harris. “We have the right pieces and the right culture. With a new coach, I’m excited about what we can bring to the table.”
Harris and Embiid — who declined to speak of promoting zealots’ merchandise of goodwill to underprivileged children — helped donate 300,000 items of merchandise to nearly 100,000 children and their families at nearly 100 different locations across the country.
Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, also co-founded the Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to probation, parole, and sentencing reform in the United States. He once had an ownership interest in the 76ers, is friends with Harden and tried not to pick sides in a contract issue.
So, should a 76ers fan buy a bona fide Harden 76ers jersey?
“I always tell them to buy a Harden 76ers jersey,” he said. “Look, I wasn’t even close to the situation. The Sixers and James are both family. But listen, I believe in these guys.”
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