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Sixers still hoping to sway James Harden into returning to Philadelphia

James Harden

Despite James Harden’s request for a trade away from Philadelphia, the 76ers aren’t ready to say goodbye to the former league MVP.

According to Forbes Sports’ Evan Sidery, the Sixers “would still love to keep [Harden] in Philadelphia for the season,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on SportsCenter. While the Sixers are aggressively pursuing trades for Harden, Wojnarowski reports that the Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is hoping that he can “convince” Harden to stay in the city for the upcoming season.

Morey and Harden’s friendship dates back to their time together in Houston, where they played for eight seasons and reached the Western Conference finals twice. Despite their history, Morey’s desire to keep Harden appears to be a pipe dream.

According to sources close to Harden, the veteran guard is “extremely upset at the way the Sixers handled his potential free agency and has made his dissatisfaction clear to the organization.”

Nonetheless, repairing relations with Harden makes sense for the Sixers. While his scoring output with the Sixers (21.0 ppg) pales in contrast to his numbers with the Rockets (29.6 ppg), Harden provides more on-court upside for Philadelphia than a positive trade return at his age (34 in August) and salary ($35.6M).

While there are legitimate concerns about whether Harden is the right running back for franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid, the Sixers concluded the 2022-23 season as the No. 3 seed in the East. With Harden, the squad is still a title threat heading into next season. Without Harden, the Sixers could easily fall further behind in 2023-24. It’s less than ideal at a time when questions about Embiid’s long-term future in Philadelphia are already swirling.