Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Sounds Off on James Harden’s Future

James Harden, Doc Rivers

Getty Doc Rivers and James Harden chat during a break in the action between the Sixers and Heat in Game 2.

The news of James Harden’s decision to work toward a long-term contract and return to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2022-23 season has reached the ears of Doc Rivers. The savvy head coach sounded ecstatic to have his star guard rostered for the foreseeable future.

Rivers commented on his star guard’s potential contract extension while trying to escape the paparazzi out in Los Angeles. He predicted a “huge deal” for Harden as he weighs whether to pick up his player option (valued at $47.4 million) for next season or enter free agency while he works out a long-term deal with the Sixers. And Rivers made it clear that he wants Harden in Philly as long as he’s in charge, telling the TMZ cameras: “I love him.”

Meanwhile, the Sixers appear ready to head toward the negotiation table with a fixed number of years. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported the team wants him to exercise his player option, then sign a new three-year deal in Philly. Financials of Harden’s potential contract were not discussed.

“I’ve been told that (Sixers) ownership wants him to opt into the $46.9 million deal for the 22/23 season, which no surprise,” O’Connor said, via HoopsHype. “I’ve been told Morey he wants that to be a three-year deal.”

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Harden Looking at Taking Less Money, Shorter Deal

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported that Harden is on board with inking a shorter-term deal and staying in Philly. He and the Sixers’ organization are “aligned on one clear directive,” per Fischer, and believe the Harden-Embiid duo is capable of winning a championship. Harden plans to opt-in for the 2022-23 season as the two sides work something out.

Remember, Harden is eligible for a max extension and could earn as much as $233 million over four years. The Sixers are trying to get creative in how they frame a possible contract, per Fischer. They could sign him to a two-year extension, piggybacked on his player option, which would keep him in Philadelphia through the 2024-25 season.

Harden may wait until August 10 to sign while trying to squeeze a few extra dollars out, or maybe he takes less money and the Sixers make a corresponding move. Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle have both been mentioned as possible trade candidates. Fischer wrote the following:

If Harden waits until Aug. 10 to sign his extension, he could receive an 8 percent raise on the second year of the extension, which would net him a total of $150.8 million, according to cap calculations provided to B/R. If Harden opts out, the maximum he can earn on a new three-year deal would be $150.7 million.

There has also been plenty of talk among league personnel of Harden potentially taking less than his maximum salary to amplify Philadelphia’s efforts to build a championship-contending rotation around Harden and Embiid. To do so, the Sixers are exploring various trade scenarios revolving around the No. 23 pick, Danny Green’s $10 million contract and 25-year-old wing Matisse Thybulle, sources said.

Tobias Harris Mentioned in Trade Talks

Tobias Harris has been mentioned in multiple trade rumors this offseason. He’s the biggest name but far from the only one. According to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, the Sixers are exploring the interest level on Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Danny Green, and Shake Milton. The team could potentially package some combination of those players and the 23rd overall pick in a trade.

“The Sixers realize their current roster is not suited to win an NBA championship,” Pompey wrote. “They’re determined to upgrade it with established players who can help propel them.”

Harris has two years left on the $180 million contract he signed in 2019. He’s due $37.63 million next season and $39.27 million for the 2023-24 season. It’s a massive contract to unload.

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