New Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse had his introductory press conference on June 1. While talking with reporters, Nurse was asked if he wanted star James Harden back on the team. Nurse not only praised Harden but added that he would like him back on the Sixers.
“James Harden is a great player,” Nurse said. “I would say this is that James has a decision to make, and I would be very happy if he came back.”
Nurse confirmed that he had spoken with Harden after being hired by the Sixers. While he didn’t talk to Harden about him potentially returning to the team, Nurse revealed what his pitch will be to both Harden and everyone else on the team.
“I am going to sit down, as I am with all of the guys. I am going to sit down with all of them 1-on-1, face-to-face here shortly, but listen, I think that winning is always the sell,” Nurse said, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire.
Fred VanVleet Linked to Sixers as Possible Replacement
Though Nurse has gone on the record saying he would like Harden to stay with the Sixers, it appears one of his former players on the Toronto Raptors may come to the Sixers should Harden opt to leave.
“Leaving the Sixers after just one full season and signing elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent is a very real possibility for Harden, which is why Philadelphia has begun giving thought as to who could replace the former league MVP. According to league sources close to the organization, Raptors All-Star guard Fred VanVleet has emerged as a potential replacement for Harden this offseason.”
VanVleet played for Nurse throughout his entire tenure with the Raptors from 2018 to 2023. In that time, not only did VanVleet win a title with the Raptors in 2019 under Nurse, but he also made the all-star team in 2022. VanVleet will enter the NBA offseason as an unrestricted free agency.
Sixers Have Not ‘Abandoned Hope’ of Keeping James Harden
There have been many rumors tying Harden to the Houston Rockets. In fact, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 19 that Harden is expected to go back to the Rockets. However, Marc Stein reported on May 23 that, despite the rumors tying Harden to the Rockets, the Sixers still have hope to keep the former MVP.
“From everything I know, Houston’s interest remains genuine, and Philly has not yet abandoned hope of re-signing him. I know this isn’t the answer everyone probably wants to hear…but I suspect we’re a month away from a real resolution,” Stein wrote in a Substack chat.
Replacing Doc Rivers with Nurse could very well factor into whether Harden stays with the Sixers or not. Nurse confirmed in his introductory press conference that he has spoken with Harden since getting hired, so that may very well prove to make all the difference in what Harden’s decision will be this summer.