It has been 10 days since a report indicated James Harden planned to remain with the Sixers on a one-plus-one contract that would have a starting salary about $15MM lower than the $47MM+ player option he turned down for 2022/23.
Harden and the 76ers still haven’t officially finalized that agreement, but the former MVP told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he’s “locked in” with his new team, and offered an explanation for why he’s willing to accept a pay cut for the coming season.
“I had conversations with (president of basketball operations) Daryl (Morey), and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden said. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”
Harden’s pay cut gave the Sixers the flexibility to use their full mid-level exception and their bi-annual exception, opening the door for them to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, respectively. Using those exceptions triggered a $157MM hard cap for 2022/23, which Philadelphia wouldn’t have been able to stay under if the 32-year-old were earning a $47MM+ salary.
With Tucker and House now in the mix, Harden described the Sixers as a “much deeper” team, adding that he likes how Philadelphia’s roster stacks up against the NBA’s top contenders.
Of course, the 76ers’ ceiling will be determined in large part by whether Harden is once again playing at an All-NBA level next season after an up-and-down 2021/22 campaign. Harden’s averages of 22.0 PPG, 10.3 APG, and 7.7 RPG would be impressive for virtually any other player, but were slightly down by his standards, and his .410 FG% and .330 3PT% were well below his career marks. He was hampered by a hamstring issue for much of the season.
“I don’t really listen to what people are saying. I wasn’t right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double,” Harden told Haynes. “If anybody else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I’m just looking forward to next season.”