The last time we saw James Harden, he was giving assurances that he would return to Philadelphia for the 2022-23 season.
As we’ve come to know, he was true to his word. In fact, he was so true to it that he took a discount to help bolster the roster with other high-level acquisitions. Harden could’ve picked up his $47.4 million player option in late June. Instead, he signed for a two-year deal worth approximately $68.6 million. He’ll have a player option worth approximately $35 million next season. In 2022-23, he’s set to make $33 million. That’s $14.4 million worth of trust placed in President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey to add pieces that move the needle for the Sixers.
Maybe the slightly thinner wallet isn’t all that humbling to Harden. But, perhaps the extensive criticism of his play in Games 5 and 6 of the Sixers’ playoff series against the Miami Heat is. But, Harden is no stranger to criticism about his playoff performances.
“I got a chip on my shoulder every year,” Harden said with a chuckle when asked if the chatter about his reputation and future following the Sixers’ elimination put a chip on his shoulder.
“It was a combination of things. I feel like those things are ironed out. It’s just conversations being had and things like that to where everybody’s comfortable. Everybody knows what to expect. Now, we just gotta go out there and do it. This training camp is going to be a start for that,” Harden said during media day on Monday when asked how he feels now compared to previous years.
“I think, really, this summer was a start for that. Just having conversations with Jo and Doc. Making sure we’re all on the same page. And then working out with Tyrese, getting more comfortable. I think me learning them. And then vice versa, them learning me and who I am and what I’m about. So, this summer was really good for that. This training camp is going to be a start.”
The easiest way for the Sixers to become a juggernaut is for Harden to recover a portion of what he seemed to have lost last season. And in due time, we’ll know just how realistic that is.