Does James Harden Have Most to Prove on Sixers?

When James Harden requested a trade from the Houston Rockets in 2020, the Philadelphia 76ers were at the front of the line to land him. Considering how Daryl Morey parted ways with the Rockets, it seemed Houston was unwilling to help out the former Rockets GM.

The Sixers put together a competitive package to land Harden, but the Brooklyn Nets won the sweepstakes. However, Harden and the Nets proved they weren’t a perfect match.

A little over a year after getting traded to Brooklyn, Harden was ready for a change of scenery. Once again, Morey was looking to pounce. Trade discussions between Brooklyn and Philadelphia went on for a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t until the 2022 trade deadline day when a deal was finally completed.

Harden was Philly-bound and swapped out for the All-Star Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and multiple picks. After joining the Sixers in the final year of his contract, Harden and the Sixers came up short in the second round of the playoffs.

While Harden could’ve hit the free agency market this offseason, the star guard made it clear that he planned to return to Philly to don a Sixers uniform once again. The ten-time All-Star stuck to his word by declining his player option and re-signing on a two-year deal.

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Is the Pressure On?

Harden wanted to run it back with an improved Sixers team. The star guard helped the Sixers’ front office by declining a nearly $50 million player option and taking a discount that’s somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million. 

As training camp approaches, the staff at The Athletic put together a list of players under the most pressure this season. For the Sixers, it’s Harden, in the eyes of The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann. 

“The Sixers added three wings with length and shooting, a few of whom Harden played with in Houston. They have an MVP candidate (Joel Embiid) who can do enough heavy lifting so that Harden will not have to play at his former MVP level to have success. Harden would likely push back that he has nothing left to prove, but the only thing left to add to his basketball résumé is an NBA title.”

Following his second game as a member of the Sixers, Harden debated he has nothing left to prove in the NBA. The star guard’s a ten-time All-Star, multi-time scoring champion, a former MVP, and has a ticket to the Hall of Fame when his time to retire finally comes.

Harden doesn’t feel the pressure to prove anything to anybody who debates his greatness due to his lack of championship rings. 

However, the city of Philadelphia expects the veteran to deliver next season. As the fans have been starving for a title after decades of coming up short, the star duo of Harden and Joel Embiid has sky-high expectations attached to them for the 2022-2023 season, and the pressure is on Harden to help deliver a title, whether he believes it or not. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.

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