Several Sixers Reflect Ahead of Houston Homecoming

James Harden, PJ Tucker

Getty James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers (L) passes between Kevin Love #0 and Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center on October 05, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There have been plenty of jokes made about the Philadelphia 76ers targeting former members of the Rockets this offseason. Daryl Morey has brought in a number of his former players after spending 14 years in the Houston front office in an effort to maximize the team’s chances of getting over the championship hump. As the team prepares for their lone matchup in Houston this season, this will be a game that means plenty to several members of the Sixers. James Harden, who is making his return after a monthlong absence, is stealing most of the headlines, but P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr, and Montrezl Harrell will each be preparing to face their former team as well.

When asked about playing back in Houston by Philadelphia Inquirer’s Gina Mizell, Tucker put it “You still get that special feeling being in the city, playing in this arena. It’s still weird coming in and going to the visitors’ [locker room].” Harden also chimed in ahead of his expected return and stated, “We’ve got a lot of really good memories here. We had some special moments. Obviously, we’re in Philly trying to create even better moments.”

Tucker Turning Things Around?

There likely isn’t another player on the Sixers roster that is more excited about Harden’s return than Tucker. During the first nine games of the season in which Tucker shared the floor with Harden, the veteran averaged 6.2 points on 4.1 field goal attempts. He connected on 59.5% of his shots from the field and 52.6% of his shots from beyond the three-point arc.

Since Harden has exited the lineup, Tucker has seen his numbers decrease in a major way. During the last 14 games without Harden, Tucker is averaging just 1.7 points on 2.3 field goal attempts per game. His efficiency has also taken a dip as he has connected on just 28.1% of his shots from the field and 27.8% from beyond the three-point arc. The 37-year-old has also been held scoreless during seven games during this stretch.

While Tucker has never been a player who made his biggest impact in the box score, an increase in offensive production can be expected alongside Harden. The passing ability of the Sixers’ point guard will create shots for the forward and the two have showcased their chemistry throughout their careers.

Expectations For Other Former Rockets

It has been a turbulent transition to Philadelphia for a few other former members of the Rockets as well. House Jr has struggled on both sides of the ball for stretches this season but has shown signs of straightening things out. He especially shined during the shorthanded victory over the Magic in which he tallied 19 points, two rebounds, and two assists. The perception of House was that he would bring a more balanced two-way impact as a rotational wing to the Sixers rotation, but that has not fully been the case. He also reflected on how his time in Houston shaped his outlook and stated, “Getting close to winning and stuff like that, it’s pushing my hunger and my drive for my team that I’m on today,” per Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sixers fans have also been disappointed by the level of play from Montrezl Harrell. The former Sixth Man of the Year has never been known for his defense but made up for this with offensive impact and energy in past seasons. Unfortunately, he is shooting just 56.1% in the restricted area and 52.4% in the paint this season. Standing 6’7″ and struggling on both sides of the floor, Harrell has been outplayed by Paul Reed throughout this season. With career-low production thus far, hopefully, Harrell can straighten things out before his next opportunity arises.

There is still plenty of time in the season for these former Rockets to find their stride in Philadelphia. Tonight’s matchup in Houston will hopefully help turn back the clock as Harden’s return signals a fresh start to the season for the team as a whole. There has not been enough time for the team to build the proper chemistry thus far and hopefully, the team remains healthy to ensure this is the case moving forward.

Read More