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James Harden contract: 76ers star declines $47.3M option for 2022-23, reportedly will sign new deal with team

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James Harden will be continuing his career with the Philadelphia 76ers. On Wednesday, the veteran guard opted out of his $47.3 million player option for the 2022-23 season, but he’s expected to sign a new contract with the Sixers once free agency begins, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. By opting out of his player option, Harden gives the Sixers more financial flexibility to help improve the rest of the roster this summer around hiim and MVP runner-up Joel Embiid

After the Sixers were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals last month, Harden said that he would take a pay cut in the short-term in order to help the team build a legitimate contender, and it appears as though he’s lived up to his word. 

“I’ll be here. [I’ll do] whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow, and put us up there with the best of them,” Harden said at the time. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s the goal. Whatever that looks like.”   

The Sixers traded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of picks to the Brooklyn Nets in February in order to land Harden, and the team’s plan all along has been to keep the former MVP in a Sixers uniform for the foreseeable future. “That’s the plan is to have him back. That’s been the plan since the trade,” Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said of Harden after Philadelphia’s season ended. 

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“Obviously, we have to work with his representation and that’ll be between us to figure out how that works,” Morey added. “… He’s an incredibly talented player just like Joel [Embiid], just like Tobias [Harris], and I’m excited for Doc [Rivers] and his staff to have a whole offseason, work with the players, and come up with the best plan for the roster.”  

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In 21 regular season games with the Sixers last season, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per performance. His production dipped slightly in 12 postseason games with Philadelphia, and at times it looked like he had lost a step compared to his prime playing days. However, the hope is that after a healthy offseason Harden will return to form. 

“I’ve been trying to get right through the course of a basketball season for two years straight,” Harden said last month. “And it’s like, that’s not it. You know what I mean? All last summer I was rehabbing. It was a little frustrating because I’m not used to going through something like that, but it is what it is. I’m just happy to be healthy now. I’ve got a full summer to be straight and do the things necessary to come back even better next year.”

Details of Harden’s next contract with the Sixers still need to be hammered out, but it certainly seems like he’s committed to the franchise given the fact that he turned down his option in order to help the team financially. Now, it’s on Philadelphia’s front office to find a way to build a better — and deeper — roster around the duo of Harden and Embiid, because the roster that they had last season clearly wasn’t good enough.    

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