Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Simmons, Tucker

James Harden had encouraging news for Sixers fans as the team wrapped up its training camp, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden put up decent numbers after being acquired from the Nets in February, but he was obviously lacking the explosiveness that made him a perennial MVP candidate in Houston. Harden, who blamed a hamstring injury for slowing him down last season, responded, “It’s getting there” when asked about his current condition.

“We’re playing with a full training camp,” he said. “So there’s times and periods that you have dead legs or rough legs. But those are the times when you’ve just got to push through it, those character things like that.”

The Sixers will need a return of vintage Harden to be contenders in a rugged Eastern Conference. He welcomes the opportunity of a full preseason to learn the team’s system after having a crash course in 21 games after the trade. Harden is accomplished as both a scorer and passer, and he’s figuring out the best ways to bring both skills to the Sixers.

“But now, it’s a little bit more different,” he said. “Different because of the time (this summer) I had off to prepare and get my mind and my body right. And it’s just an opportunity with the new people that we have. And, honestly, just the communication with myself and (coach Doc Rivers) and Joel (Embiid) to know when it’s time for me to be aggressive and for Joel to be aggressive.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers had little to say about Ben Simmons, who is expected to make his Nets debut tonight in a preseason game against the Sixers, Pompey states in a separate story. Simmons hasn’t played since Philadelphia was eliminated in the 2021 playoffs, and he had a bitter public battle with the organization before being traded to Brooklyn. “We’re focused on the guys that want to be a Philadelphia 76er,” Rivers said when asked about facing Simmons. “We’re not going to focus on anyone that doesn’t want to be one.”
  • Rivers plans to hold out at least three of his starters for tonight’s game, Pompey adds in another piece.
  • One of the focuses in training camp was becoming more aggressive defensively, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Joel Embiid has said he wants the Sixers to be the league’s best defensive team, and the offseason additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and Danuel House were all made with defense in mind. “I know what it takes to get it done on a nightly basis in the league [and] playoffs,” Tucker said. “It’s tough and it comes down, a lot of times, to communication when plays break down on defense. You’ve got to make stuff happen, and it’s by communication. … You set those expectations right now in the preseason.”
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