Sixers Notes: Harden, Thybulle, Embiid, Toughness

As we previously relayed, when James Harden was asked whether he’d opt in to his $47.37MM player option for next season, he said, “I’ll be here.”

Following up on Harden’s statement, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey confirmed that the team plans on having the former MVP on its roster going forward.

That’s the plan, is to have him back,” Morey said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “That’s been the plan since the trade. Obviously, we have to work with his representation and that’ll be between us to figure out how that works.”

Morey added that improving the defense will be a focus in the offseason, while coach Doc Rivers said the team needs to improve its toughness.

Well, I think it’s something that our players can grow,” Morey said of a lack of mental toughness being a common theme in exit interviews with players. “I mean, going through losses and how you respond to that and how you take it as your own look in the mirror. I think we all need to look in the mirror and say, ‘How can we each be better?’ … And that goes for myself as well.”

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • In an appearance on “Get Up,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, Nobody in the NBA believes that the Sixers are going to give James Harden a max contract.” If Harden is willing to take a pay cut to improve the team’s financial flexibility, Windhorst points to Chris Paul‘s contract structure with the Suns as something that might work for both sides. Paul declined his $44MM player option last summer and signed a four-year, $120MM contract, but only $75MM is guaranteed.
  • Matisse Thybulle, who was only partially vaccinated and thus ineligible to play in Toronto, was removed from the starting lineup for the postseason after starting 50 of 66 regular season games. Thybulle was asked at his exit interview whether he regretted his decision to not get fully vaccinated, with the hindsight that it impacted his performance and – by his own admission – his confidence. However, Thybulle said he was content with his choice and had no regrets, according to Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice (Twitter link). Thybulle averaged 25.5 minutes per contest in the regular season, but just 15.2 during the playoffs.
  • Joel Embiid was understandably frustrated that his otherwise-healthy season ended with injuries, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’m not looking for any excuses, but those are just the facts,” Embiid said of his orbital fracture and torn thumb ligament. “It [stinks]. I don’t think anybody would believe that I was 100%, so it does [stink] to get to this stage and not be yourself, not being able to do what you want and your body not allowing you to just be yourself … I would say [I should] try to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but those are freak injuries. If it happens, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
  • Rivers’ comments about improving the team’s toughness were initiated by Embiid, who said the Sixers have “never had P.J. Tucker” during his tenure, a nod to Tucker’s hard-nosed defense and all-out effort. “[He] believes that he can get from Point A to Point B and he believes that no one can beat him,” Embiid said of Tucker, per Mizell. “They [Miami] have a few of those guys. … Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said that we’ve had those type of guys. Nothing against what we have. It’s just the truth.”
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