Report: James Harden opts for deal as 76ers explore trade option

James Harden has reportedly opted out of the final year of his contract.

James Harden has exercised his $35.6 million contract option for next season with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to multiple reports, with the franchise exploring trades to move the veteran scorer.

The decision was not made public because Harden informed the 76ers of his choice on Thursday before the midnight deadline to make the option, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The 33-year-old Harden could decline the option and decide to try out for free agency. The Sixers had the right to offer him a $210 million, four-year deal, which was $8 million more than any other team.

But a person who spoke anonymously to the AP on Thursday said it was not certain Harden would be traded, but the player nicknamed The Beard expressed his desire to win a championship — the most he has yet to do in his career. Have not – in Philadelphia or with any other claimant.

According to ESPN’s Adrian WojnarowskiThe LA Clippers and New York Knicks are among the teams expected to show interest in landing Harden.

Nick Nurse, hired last month as Philadelphia’s coach, has been stumping for Harden’s return. Teammate Tobias Harris did the same.

“James has to make a decision, and I would be very happy if he comes back,” Nurse said this month.

But it appears that playing as the second option behind NBA MVP Joel Embiid and chasing a championship in Philly is no longer on the table.

Should Harden be traded, it would be his third since requesting a trade to the Houston Rockets in February 2021. Wojnarowski reports that Harden was interested in reuniting with the Rockets this summer, but his focus is on pursuing Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet.

Harden led the NBA in assists with 10.7 per game last season, but it was his wildly fluctuating offense that disappointed Sixers fans and doomed them to a loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference second round. helped.

Harden, acquired from Brooklyn at the 2022 trade deadline for Ben Simmons, scored 45 points in Game 1 and 42 in Game 4 against the Celtics. Harden, who turns 34 in August, was 0-of-6 on 3 during the Game 2 and Game 6 losses. He scored only nine points in Game 7 and went scoreless in the second half.

Harden emerged as a bona fide superstar in Houston, but he has largely overshadowed current NBA MVP Joel Embiid with the Sixers. If the Sixers and the team president don’t re-sign Harden, they could be in trouble. The Sixers have limited salary cap space, making it nearly impossible to sign a quality free agent, especially one with Harden’s pedigree.

So now they will try to get the asset in a deal – a common factor in Harden’s career. If Harden is traded, according to NBA rules, he will have to play out under his 2023-24 contract and be eligible for free agency until next season.

The Clippers and the Heat have emerged as contenders in the Harden sweepstakes.

Harden is a 10-time All-Star, but was essentially forced to trade him out of Houston and into Brooklyn. Harden declined his $47.4 million player option with the 76ers for the previous season and instead agreed to a two-year deal that would see him paid $32 million in 2022–23. This included a player option for this upcoming season. He left an earlier deal before last season to remain with the 76ers and earned about $14.5 million less last season than what he made under his previous contract.

The seven-time All-NBA player is a member of the league’s 75th anniversary team.

This report used information from The Associated Press.

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