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Report: 76ers not expected to offer James Harden max contract

76ers president Daryl Morey and James Harden

CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 15: President of basketball operations Daryl Morey responds during a press conference at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility on February 15, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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The Nets tried to sign James Harden to a three-year, $161,141,718 max contract extension in October. When his team traded for Harden in February, 76ers owner Josh Harris giddily declared, “This is going to be awesome.” In March, 76ers president Daryl Morey – who let Harden do whatever he wanted with the Rockets while heaping praise on the guard – called Harden “my basketball Jesus.”

But life comes at you fast.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

I think, at this point, nobody in the NBA believes that the 76ers are going to give James Harden a max contract.

Harden had a dreary postseason, especially his low-energy performance (zero points on two shots) in the second half of Philadelphia’s final game. Eligible to opt in and sign a max extension that’d pay him $270,179,999 over the next five years, Harden looked far from deserving of that deal.

The big question: What contract will Harden get?

Maybe he’ll exercise his $47,366,760 player option then try to sign long-term when his stock is higher. That’d be risky, but there’d be upside for the former MVP. He could get healthier and play better.

The 32-year-old could also opt out and sign a longer contract with a lower starting salary but more total compensation. That could be in conjunction with taking a discount to allow the 76ers to add a third star with Joel Embiid and Harden (or, cynically, a second star with Embiid). There are Bradley Beal rumors.

Harden could even explore free agency. Though he keeps saying he wants to be in Philadelphia, he said similar things about Brooklyn before forcing a trade. However, there isn’t an obvious outside suitor.

This likely come down to internal leverage between Harden and the 76ers. Once thought to be Philadelphia offering a max contract and Harden either accepting it or not (or choosing to take a discount), these negotiations will be more complicated.