While repairing the frayed bond between James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers might appear to be a daunting task at this point, the 10-time NBA All-Star is focusing on his personal agency as he readies himself for the upcoming season. During one of his JH-Town Charity Weekend softball clinics in Houston, Harden was asked by KHOU 11-TV about the potential for reconciling with 76ers management. Harden provided an unvarnished response, saying, “I do think so.”
In June, Harden made the decision to exercise his player option for the 2023-24 season, a move that would secure him $35.6 million rather than venturing into free agency. Speculation swirled that he had his sights set on joining the Los Angeles Clippers via a trade, but trade negotiations with Philadelphia have come to a halt, prompting a temporary suspension. Nevertheless, Harden remains steadfast in his commitment to attend the September training camp and approach the forthcoming season with equanimity.
“Throughout the summer, I’ve maintained my patience,” Harden noted. “My focal point is on the elements within my control and the preparations for the season.”
Esteemed sports commentator Skip Bayless, much like others, envisions Harden’s potential inclusion in the Philadelphia 76ers as an impetus for a fresh start, especially in tandem with Joel Embiid, the recipient of the 2022 NBA MVP award. Bayless shared his insights on the unfolding narrative during an episode of The Skip Bayless Show. He conceded to having been swayed by the fervor surrounding Harden in the past, recalling, “I fell for it last year… I was enticed and picked the 76ers to triumph in the East.”
Bayless, nonetheless, voiced reservations about Harden’s mercurial performance on the court, categorizing him as an unpredictable teammate. He issued a caveat that the 76ers’ preoccupation with Harden’s statistical achievements could potentially lead to future ruefulness. “I apologize, but he can’t be relied upon,” Bayless commented. “Daryl Morey remains captivated… he’s intrigued by James’ cutting-edge statistics.”
The summer months have indeed stress-tested the trust between the 6-foot-5 point guard and the team’s upper echelons. As Harden embarks on his second season with the 76ers, he confronts the challenge of navigating a relationship with leadership that he has publicly critiqued, particularly Daryl Morey. The two share a history, having collaborated during Harden’s tenure with the Houston Rockets. Frictions eventually culminated in a trade that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets before his subsequent transition to Philadelphia.
In the 2022-23 season, Harden boasted an average of 21.0 points per game and clinched the league lead with 10.7 assists per game. The 76ers’ preseason is slated to commence on October 8, squaring off against the Boston Celtics.
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