At no point since the Sixers’ splashy February deal did James Harden or the team suggest he might only stay in Philadelphia for a half-season or so.
Indeed, after declining his player option of approximately $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season, Harden plans to sign a new two-year deal with the Sixers that has a player option for the second season, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Friday afternoon. Charania reported Harden is "taking a $15 million pay cut for next season."
No agreement has been finalized yet, a source told NBC Sports Philadelphia. The source confirmed Harden will be taking significantly less with the priority of strengthening the Sixers' roster.
By opting out this offseason, Harden enabled the Sixers to have access to both the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and bi-annual exception in free agency. They used those tools to sign two former teammates of his in P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.
Per Spotrac, the Sixers' active roster cap was approximately $120.6 million with Harden unsigned, about $36.4 million under the luxury tax apron. Teams that use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, use the bi-annual exception or acquire a player through a sign-and-trade can’t exceed the apron.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey acquired Harden on Feb. 10 in a deal that sent Ben Simmons to the Nets. The 32-year-old rehabbed his injured left hamstring and then debuted for the Sixers after the All-Star break. The team won in his first five appearances before running into predictable issues integrating a star guard not at peak health.
“Man, for me personally, it’s been a long year,” Harden said after the Sixers’ second-round playoff series loss to the Heat. “But since I’ve been here, it’s been great. We’re trying to build something so fast. We’re trying to build a championship contender team so fast — which I still think we are, we’re just missing a few pieces. But other than that, we tried to go for it right away. We just came up a little short. … We’ve still got to put work in and continue to keep going.”
In 21 regular-season outings with the Sixers, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds. He had flashes of playoff brilliance, including a 16-point fourth quarter in Game 4 against Miami, but struggled at times to create separation off the dribble and find the right openings in half-court offense.
“I’m excited, man,” Harden said of the upcoming offseason following a scoreless second half in Game 6. “I’ve been trying to get right throughout the course of a basketball season for two years straight. That’s not it. All last summer I was rehabbing and it was a little frustrating, because I’m not used to going through something like that. But it is what is. I’m just happy to be healthy now. I’ve got a full summer to be straight and to do the things necessary to come back even better next year.”
This story will be updated ...