On his third team in two years, James Harden hasn't been the most loyal superstar lately. In fact, following Philly's series defeat against Miami, there are some serious concerns he could jump ship again in favor of a team that may be better equipped to compete for a title.
But after Thursday's series-ending game, Harden confirmed (verbally) that he will return to Philly next season and do whatever it takes to win:
When asked about his contract option, James Harden says he will be back in Philadelphia, and he will do whatever it takes to allow this team to compete at the highest level moving forward.
Harden has a $46 million player option for next year and it makes sense why he'd take it despite the defeat. Since arriving in Philadelphia, Harden hasn't played like a max-contract player. Through 21 games during the regular season, he averaged just 21 points, 10.5 assists, and 7.1 rebounds per game on 40% shooting.
In tonight's elimination game, he put up a measly 11 points on 44% shooting. After the year he's had, picking up that player option is really a no-brainer for Harden, who may not see that money again:
“I can’t commit to that,” Amar'e Stoudemire said of offering Harden a max deal. “If I’m the owner of the Sixers, I cannot commit to giving him a max deal. I just don’t see the dedication that I would need to see from my top 75 player. You have to be able to have a certain level of determination and focus on being the best player you can possibly be and also be there for your teammates when they need you the most.… If he’s not capable of doing that as a max player, I’m not going to be willing to now give you a max contract if you’re not showing me that you can handle the situation.”
So, it seems Harden and Embiid are going to give it another try. The question is, can they achieve a different result?
This summer, Daryl Morey will be working hard to make changes to the roster and maybe even the coaching staff. In the right situation, under the right kind of leadership, it's possible for Philly to make things work. Either way, they have a long summer ahead of them and things will only get worse before they get better.