All signs point to James Harden returning to the Philadelphia 76ers next season. The one-time MVP stated he was coming back after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Ditto for Sixers president Daryl Morey and head coach Doc Rivers.
But Harden still hasn’t formally announced if he will be picking up his player option for the 2022-23 season. The expectation remains that he will do that, but the deadline is creeping up fast. Harden must decide by June 30; otherwise, the 10-time All-Star will hit free agency as an unrestricted free agent.
Decisions, decisions. Morey told reporters that the two sides would be working on a long-term contract extension, one that could be worth $233 million over four years. The first step toward that end requires Harden opting in for next season.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor thinks the Sixers are banking on Harden to “play on his expiring contract and have a prove it season.” Then the organization can get an 82-game look at the aging star and his rehabbed hamstring. And the way he fits in with Joel Embiid. O’Conner wrote the following:
If Harden thrives, he’ll get paid another $200 million on an extension. If he fails, then the Sixers will avoid overpaying for a soon-to-be 33-year-old who’s past his athletic prime. If the Sixers keep Harden and he fails, then in a couple of years it could be Embiid demanding a trade. Daryl Morey can’t screw this up, and if Harden is retained he needs to seize his chance to contend for a championship.
One other interesting tidbit from O’Connor’s reporting: Embiid is already back in the gym working to improve his all-around game. “Sources say Embiid is already working this offseason on perimeter attacks and finishing with touch at the rim,” wrote O’Connor. Remember, Embiid just underwent two different surgeries.
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Nobody Expects Harden to Get Max Deal
The idea that the Sixers would hand Harden up to $275 million over the next five years (that includes his $47 million opt-in number) is ridiculous. Not after the way he plodded through the postseason. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst sees Harden returning to Philly on his one-year player option and then possibly taking a pay cut on a long-term extension, much like Chris Paul did last year when he gave up $14 million.
“I think at this point, nobody in the NBA believes that the Sixers are going to give James Harden a max contract,” Windhorst said on May 13. “So the question is, what is he willing to do? Morey always thinks big and he will have a plan for this summer to improve this roster. But he may need James Harden on board with it.”
Sixers Fans Celebrate Allen Iverson on Twitter
Sixers fans flocked to Twitter on Monday to celebrate the anniversary of Allen Iverson’s vicious cross-over on Tyronn Lue in the NBA Finals. He dramatically stepped over the Los Angeles Lakers guard and nailed a three-pointer as Philadelphia pulled out Game 1 in overtime. It was the only contest they won in the series, but the iconic play lives on. Remember the date: June 6, 2001.