Harden Takes A ‘Pay Cut’ As 76ers Agree To $68.6 Million, Two-Year Deal
James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers have agreed to a two-year, $68.6 million deal, finally settling weeks of negotiations. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter on Wednesday night. Harden reportedly has a player option for the second year that would allow him to enter free agency following the 2022-23 season.
Free agent James Harden has agreed on a two-year, $68.6M deal, including a player option, to return to the 76ers, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 20, 2022
Following a year in which the All-Star guard was traded to the 76ers from the Brooklyn Nets, Harden declined his $47 million option last month in order to give his new team more space to acquire other players. This new deal seems to benefit both the team and the player. This offseason, the 76ers have signed three free agents and two undrafted rookies, and also traded for shooting guard De’Anthony Melton. Meanwhile, Harden has accepted a temporary pay cut but also retains the right to enter free agency after the season.
In the 2022 NBA Playoffs, the 76ers were eliminated in six games by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Star center Joel Embiid’s initial absence due to an injury in the previous round and lackluster performances from Harden were considered the primary causes for the team’s early exit. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Harden said that he accepted less money so that his team could be more competitive.
“This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship,” Harden said. “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 latest contract negotiations are sure to encourage the 76ers organization and fanbase alike, but it’s doubtful that it will sway skeptics. Harden’s postseason viability has been a topic of discussion for years, and the guard has gained a reputation as an underachiever.
Despite playing for championship-contending teams for nearly a decade, Harden has only appeared in the NBA Finals once, when the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in 2012. After being traded to the Houston Rockets, he had multiple MVP-caliber seasons but could never lift the team past the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. A disastrous turn of events in Brooklyn, in which the big three of Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant accomplished very little in two seasons together, is just the most recent item in a growing resume of Harden’s shortcomings.
Just as they did last season, Harden and his new team appear to be contenders going into the 2022-23 season, and surrounding him and Embiid with strong supporting characters appears to be a formula for success. But for a talented player with a notorious lack of historical team success, agents and contract negotiations will never tell the story as well as events to come on the court.
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