James Harden hasn't been able to reach the level he was at during his prime with the Houston Rockets since he moved away from the franchise. His brief tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers has been even worse, although he showed out in the closeout Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors.
The Sixers will now face the Miami Heat in the next round, a series that promises to be tough and physical. With Joel Embiid set to miss multiple games in the series after suffering an orbital fracture, the onus will be on James Harden to step it up and carry them through to the next round.
And Shaquille O'Neal has spoken on the Big Bacon podcast about what Harden needs to do to shut his doubters up that are suggesting that he is past it.
"I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don't know what's going on with James. I know he's shooting 37% from the field and 38% from the three this playoffs. That's not going to get it done.
"His motivation should be everybody thinks he lost it. He's not getting by people on that leg move. He's not getting by people, he has no left. I don't know if he's still affected by the hamstring but this is not going to get it done."
Harden averaged less than 20 points during the first-round series, which simply won't be enough against the Heat. The one good thing about Embiid being out is that Harden has always shown the capability to thrive in an offense that is centered around him.
If Harden genuinely cannot perform at a high level anymore, a lot of questions will be asked about any potential extension from the Sixers after his contract ends. One way or another, this promises to be a defining series when Harden's legacy is spoken about after he hangs it up.