However, Harden confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the lack of opt-in had nothing to do with his level of commitment to Philadelphia and was more about an inability to file the necessary paperwork before the trade was completed. Harden can’t pick up his $47.4MM player option for ’22/23 at this point, but can do it once the Sixers’ season is over, and he made it clear today that he intends to do so, as Derek Bodner of The Daily Six tweets.
Exercising that option will put Harden on a path to maximize his earnings over the next five years. By opting out and signing a new five-year free agent contract, he could earn up to a projected $269.8MM. Opting in for 2022/23 and then signing a four-year extension would make him eligible for up to $270.2MM over the same period.
Speaking to reporters today about the trade that sent him to Philadelphia, Harden also claimed that the Sixers were his preferred destination when he was originally traded out of Houston over a year ago.
“Philly was my first choice, it just didn’t happen,” Harden said, per Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. “Best big man in the league in Joel (Embiid), and obviously the coaching. Just from top to bottom, it made sense. I’m just happy and blessed that I’m here.
While the Sixers and Nets were widely known to be the finalists in last year’s Harden sweepstakes, the former MVP’s claim that he wanted to go to Philadelphia at that time doesn’t necessarily line up with subsequent reporting on the situation. Just last month, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote that the Rockets asked Harden his preference and he chose Brooklyn.
In any case, a year later, Harden certainly wanted to be a Sixer more than he wanted to be a Net, and the two teams made it happen last Thursday. Harden, who won’t play until after the All-Star break due to a left hamstring injury, told reporters that was a “collaborative decision” in order to make sure he’s back to 100%, adding that his hamstring “feels really good,” per Adam Zagoria of Forbes.
Here’s more from Harden’s introductory presser as a 76er, via Neubeck and Forbes:
On whether Kyrie Irving‘s vaccination status and part-time availability were factors in Harden’s desire to be traded:
“Very minimal, and obviously me and Ky are really good friends. Whatever he was going through or is still going through, that’s his personal preference. But it definitely did impact the team because originally me, Kyrie and KD (Kevin Durant) on the court and winning covers up a lot of that stuff, but it was unfortunate that we played 16 games (together) out of whatever it was.”
On playing with Embiid:
“We’re both at a high level to where we’ll figure it out. Joel does everything on the floor. So we got guys on our team that are very smart, we communicate and we have coaching that is going to put us in positions to be successful. They have something great already going on, I’m just here to contribute. And I know that I can do that very well. On the court, when you got high-level skilled guys that know the game and all they want to do is win, they’ll figure it out.”
On whether the Sixers can contend for a title this year:
“Hell yeah. There’s a lot that goes into it, it doesn’t happen overnight. Just being here around guys, they have the right mindset, obviously coming from the coaching staff. But after the break, man, it’s go time. As much as I can incorporate and figure things out fast, which probably won’t be long, the better things will be. It shouldn’t take long at all, I pretty much can fit anywhere.”