According to a source familiar with the decision, James Harden decided to exercise his $35.6 million contract option with the Philadelphia 76ers for the next season even though the team was considering trading the experienced scorer.
According to the source who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the decision was not made public, Harden notified the 76ers of his choice on Thursday before the deadline of 5 p.m. to take up the option.
Harden, 33, has the opportunity to refuse it and pursue free agency instead. He was entitled to a four-year, $210 million contract from the Sixers, which was $8 million more than any other club could have offered.
However, the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity said that while it wasn’t certain that Harden would be traded, the player known as The Beard expressed a desire to win a championship in Philadelphia or with another contender, something he hasn’t done in his career, which dates back to his rookie season in 2009.
Since the 76ers were found guilty of tampering last offseason and thus lost their second-round draught selections, they were required to adhere by the league regulations that forbade them from discussing contracts with Harden’s agents until Friday.
But now that Harden has pushed his way out of Brooklyn and Houston, the setting seems set for yet another sensational deal involving him.
Philadelphia’s new coach, Nick Nurse, has advocated for Harden’s comeback.
This month, Nurse remarked, “James has a choice to make, and I’d be very glad if he came back.
Tobias Harris, a forward for the Sixers who is facing some contract uncertainty this summer and would be the ideal trade partner for Harden, said this week that he wants Harden to rejoin the organisation.
Few men have the ability to drop 40 points in a playoff game. That flies a little bit too beneath the radar, in my opinion,” Harris added. “James is a fantastic player, a hard worker, and an all-around excellent leader, in my opinion. Naturally, I want him back.
But it seems like competing in Philly’s title race as the backup to NBA MVP Joel Embiid is no longer a genuine possibility.
With 10.7 assists per game, Harden led the NBA last season, but it was his wildly inconsistent offence that infuriated Sixers supporters and ultimately sealed their fate in the Eastern Conference second-round defeat to Boston.
Ben Simmons was traded to Brooklyn for Harden at the 2022 trade deadline. Harden scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 points in Game 4 wins against the Celtics. In the defeats in Games 2 and 6, Harden, who will be 34 in August, shot 0 for 6 from outside the arc. In Game 7, he scored only nine points, and the second half was scoreless.
In Houston, Harden became into an overnight sensation, but with the Sixers, he has primarily been Embiid’s understudy.
Any trade with the Sixers in win-now mode by team president Daryl Morey, who made the trade a decade ago to bring Harden to Houston, must yield a sizable profit. Due to their restricted salary cap room, the Sixers are almost unable to sign a decent free agent, much alone one with Harden’s resume.
As this is a regular strategy in Harden’s career, they will now try to acquire assets in a transaction. According to NBA regulations, if Harden is dealt, he must play out the remainder of his 2023–24 contract and won’t be available for free agency until the following season.
Harden, a 10-time All-Star, effectively pushed his way into the league by being traded out of Brooklyn and Houston.
In January 2021, the Rockets moved Harden to the Nets, where he was supposed to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to win a championship. When the Big 3 struggled, Harden was traded to the Sixers for the displeased Simmons a year later.
Harden decided against exercising his $47.4 million player option with the 76ers for the 2018–19 campaign and instead chose to sign a two-year agreement for $32 million in 2022–2023. For the next season, a player option was implemented. He made around $14.5 million less last season than he might have under his former contract since he chose to leave his old agreement before the previous campaign to remain with the 76ers.
The seven-time All-NBA player is a part of the 75th anniversary squad for the league.