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A championship is about the only thing missing from James Harden’s resume, and he wants to change that on the Philadelphia 76ers.
“This is where I want to be. This is where I want to win, and I think we have the pieces to accomplish that goal,” Harden said in a statement Wednesday as the team announced his new deal. “From my first day with the 76ers organization, the team and the fans have helped me feel at home here in Philadelphia. I’m excited to build off of last season and I can’t wait to get out on the court with the guys and start this journey.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the 10-time All-Star and 2017-18 league MVP agreed to a two-year, $68.6 million deal featuring a player option to stay with the 76ers. In doing so, he turned down a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and will make $33 million during the upcoming campaign.
The pay cut allowed Philadelphia to use the full mid-level exception to add P.J. Tucker and the bi-annual exception to sign Danuel House, underscoring Harden’s sentiment that winning is his primary goal.
Few teams and players will be under more of a spotlight this season than Philadelphia and Harden.
The last time the 76ers advanced past the second round of the playoffs was when Allen Iverson was stepping over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals. Anything less than another Finals appearance would be seen as a major disappointment with a loaded roster that features Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.
That is even more the case after the front office bolstered the team’s depth and versatility with the additions of Tucker, House and De’Anthony Melton this offseason.
Yet the 76ers will need Harden to be much better in the playoffs than he was last season when he averaged 4.8 turnovers per game in a second-round loss to the Miami Heat. He attempted just nine field goals and didn’t score a single point in the second half of the Game 6 loss that ended his team’s season.
“I’m sure since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden,” Embiid told reporters. “But that’s not who he is anymore.”
It probably won’t be who he is in 2022-23 considering he turns 33 years old next month, but a slightly better version may be enough to lift the 76ers to the next level given the amount of talent elsewhere on the roster.
Then Harden could accomplish his goal of winning in Philadelphia.