James Harden disappears in Game 6 amid contract uncertainty

James Harden disappears in Game 6 amid contract uncertainty

James Harden was nowhere to be found on Thursday’s Philadelphia flop.

The Sixers point guard, traded to Philadelphia as of February deadline to help Joel Embiid pursue a deep playoff push, was 4-of-9 with 11 points in 42 minutes of action.

Harden made just two shots in the second half of Philadelphia’s 99-90 Game 6 elimination loss to Miami. He took a shot in the third and fourth quarters.

His latest performance in his first season with the Sixers probably doesn’t justify a contract extension — but there are options.

If Harden decides to enter the final year of his contract, he will earn a salary of $47 million for the 2022-23 season and become a free agent in 2023.

If he gets out of his current contract, Harden will become a free agent this summer – and could potentially land a Supermax contract worth up to $250 million over five years.

When asked if he plans to opt into another year with the 76ers, Harden said, “I’ll be here. Whatever allows this team to keep growing, getting better and doing the things necessary to compete at the highest level.”

Harden didn’t have much of an explanation when asked what the Heat did to limit him in Game 6.

“Nothing,” he said. “Nothing. We executed our offense. I felt like the ball was moving and just wasn’t coming back to me.”

The Sixers acquired Harden from the Nets in a blockbuster trade as of February deadline, trading Harden for Ben Simmons. The former league MVP was the hopeful cure for the Sixers’ shooting battles led by Simmons.

James Harden during the 76ers' Game 6 loss to the Heat
James Harden during the 76ers’ Game 6 loss to the Heat
Getty Images

Harden, who was a goalscorer during his tenure with the Rockets, disappeared when the Sixers needed him most, as the No. 2 behind Embiid — who had 20 points and 12 rebounds while playing through multiple injuries.

After the Game 6 loss, Embiid said Houston Harden fans once knew that was a thing of the past.

“Ever since we got him, everyone’s been expecting the Houston James Harden,” Embiid said. “But he’s not anymore. He’s more of a playmaker. Sometimes I thought he could have been more aggressive, as we all could. All of us if it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys who come off the bank.

“And I don’t just talk offensively. I’m speaking of you know, as a whole, offensively and defensively. I don’t think we’re good defensively as a team. They took advantage of a lot of things that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively everyone’s really on the same page, obviously they just probably have what, three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn’t much time. … I don’t think we played our best basketball.”

Harden’s second-half performance in Game 6, or lack thereof, drew the wrath of ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith.

“This performance by James Harden warrants an investigation,” the First Take host said after the game. “Like in God’s name you go 22 minutes in the second half and try a shot. It was an awful feat. Anemic and Impotent Performance by James Harden. And I’m really interested to see what the Philadelphia 76ers are going to do with it [coach] Doc Rivers because I smell something and it doesn’t smell right at all.”

However, Rivers didn’t blame Harden after the Sixers were sent home from the playoffs.

“I’m not going to make this a referendum on James, okay?” said Fluss. “We could have just played better. The ball could have moved more. Did we have enough time to pack our things? I thought we were honest. I thought we really did it, but clearly we didn’t.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.