James Harden’s conditioning has been a major talking point all year, with some questioning if the aging superstar had lost a step. He looked less explosive off the dribble and unwilling to carry the load at times, especially in the postseason.
One issue for Harden was a lingering hamstring injury that the Philadelphia 76ers knew about before completing the blockbuster trade for the 10-time All-Star. Harden never used it as an excuse, but he did mention it on several occasions. Whatever the case, the Sixers guard is back in the gym and pushing his body amid all the criticism.
Trainer Chuck Ellis posted two videos of Harden in the lab this summer. He looks noticeably “slim and trim” during a “great week” of practices. (Editor’s note: there is a lot of Adidas love going on here, including Harden wearing the Yeezy Foam Runners).
Elllis is a Philadelphia native (Strawberry Mansion High School) who is well known in NBA circles. He’s trained guys like Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, and Lou Williams over the years while serving as an assistant coach at Holy Family College.
Harden was open and honest about his desire to spend the summer getting healthier for the 2022-23 campaign. He also vowed to opt-in to his player option as the Sixers work on negotiating a long-term contract extension.
“I’m excited. I’ve been trying to get right through the course of a basketball season for two years straight,” Harden said after the Game 6 loss to Miami. “And it’s like, it’s not it. You know what I mean? All last summer I was rehabbing.
“It was a little frustrating because I’m not used to going through something like that, but it is what it is. And I’m just happy to be healthy now. I’ve got a full summer to be straight and do the things necessary to come back even better next year.”
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Sixers Don’t Have the ‘Houston James Harden’
All-Star center Joel Embiid raised eyebrows when he admitted the Sixers didn’t get the “Houston James Harden,” a reference to the player who won three scoring titles and an MVP with the Rockets.
Embiid was trying to pay Harden a compliment by pointing out his important role as facilitator for the Sixers’ offense. He is a certified playmaker nowadays.
“I don’t know, I think he’s been, obviously since we got him everybody expected the Houston James Harden but that’s not who he is anymore. He’s more of a playmaker,” Embiid said after Game 6. “I thought at times, he could have been – all of us, could have been more aggressive. That’s all of us, whether it’s Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or the bench. I’m not just talking about offensively, I’m talking about as a whole, offensively and defensively.”
Ex-Rockets Teammate Defends Harden
Harden has his fair share of detractors, but those who know him the best continue to defend him. Take Iman Shumpert, for example. Harden’s former teammate in Houston and Brooklyn recently stook up for the 2018 MVP during a recent YouTube interview.
“You can’t do cardio on a hamstring, bro,” Shumpert told Vlad TV. “His hamstring was hurt. He can’t do cardio. He’s gonna gain a little weight, man. I know y’all see it. He got the fat boy traits. He got it!”