Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Harden, Knicks-Pistons Trade, DiVincenzo, Holiday

The Sixers‘ first meeting with James Harden since trading him to the Clippers last fall was relatively calm, but Wednesday’s rematch in Philadelphia will likely have a different atmosphere, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Harden concentrated on play-making on Sunday afternoon, scoring 12 points and handing out 14 assists as the Sixers picked up a much-needed road victory. Harden left without speaking to reporters, but his former teammates said they’re happy that he appears to have found a positive situation in Los Angeles.

“James is a hell of a player and I’ll always have a huge amount of respect for him,” Tobias Harris said. “Playing with him here, it’s good to see him playing in L.A., flourishing and playing his game and just ballin’ out. It’s all love and respect. He’s a hall-of-fame player, and for me it was an honor being here, playing with him.”

Harden can expect a raucous reception when he returns to Philadelphia for the first time since a bitter contract dispute with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey led him to demand a trade last summer. Haden launched repeated verbal attacks at Morey and disrupted training camp and the early part of the season before being traded to L.A. at the start of November.

Vardon adds that instead of being focused on Harden, the Sixers are concerned about their playoff prospects as they try to stay in the race for the sixth seed while Joel Embiid recovers from meniscus surgery.

“We know what the situation is,” Tyrese Maxey said. “We know we gotta go out there and fight. He’s not here, he’s not walking through those doors right now. What we have in this locker room, that’s who has to go out there and compete.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks will host the Pistons tonight in a reminder of a trade that has turned out poorly for both teams so far, notes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. New York hoped to bolster its shooting last month when it acquired Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic from Detroit. However, they’ve both been disappointing, even with extra opportunities created by injuries to Julius Randle and OG Anunoby. For Detroit, Quentin Grimes has missed 15 of 21 games with a right knee injury he suffered when he was still with the Knicks. Evan Fournier has appeared in 19 straight games after being trapped on Tom Thibodeau’s bench, but he’s been in a severe shooting slump.
  • Donte DiVincenzo is nearing the Knicks‘ record for most three-pointers in a season, Bondy adds in a separate story. He’s 18 away from the mark of 241 that Fournier set two years ago. “I don’t think about it. Obviously I’m aware of it, but I don’t go into the game going, ‘How many do I need?’” DiVincenzo said. “That’s for you guys to talk about, that’s for everybody else to have fun with. But when you start doing that — there’s basketball karma, basketball gods. That’s not something [I want to mess with].”
  • Celtics guard Jrue Holiday explained the shoulder issue that will cause him to miss his fourth straight game tonight, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Not a dead arm. I got hit on my shoulder and it felt like my arm went dead,” Holiday said. “But it’s not a nerve thing or anything. It’s just the part of the shoulder that I got hit in. But my shoulder is fine.
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