3 things to watch for in Sixers’ preseason opener vs. Nets

James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Sixers vs. Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Sixers vs. Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers open the preseason on Monday, Oct. 3 in Brooklyn. It’s hard to imagine a more anticipated preseason matchup: Ben Simmons making his NBA return against his former team and James Harden returning to Brooklyn. Not to mention the slew of offseason controversies swirling around other key members of the Nets. People will tune in.

Both Philadelphia and Brooklyn are expected to compete for the Eastern Conference crown in 2023. Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant are two of the best players this game has to offer, while the Harden/Maxey vs. Irving/Simmons backcourt duel is sure to fuel plenty of arguments ahead of the regular season.

Here’s what the Sixers fanbase should be monitoring.

Sixers-Nets what to watch for: James Harden’s comfort level

James Harden never looked quite right in Philly last season. He was great — don’t get it twisted — but the production isn’t what we’re accustomed to from Harden, and his comfort level within the offense was never 100 percent.

This will be our first taste of Harden after his widely celebrated summer of change. This was Harden’s first full, healthy offseason in two years. He lost weight, he played pick-up, and by all accounts, he looks better. More like his old self. It’s only the preseason, but we should still get a decent sampling of Harden’s burst on Monday. If he’s rumbling downhill like the Harden of old, that would cause for excitement in Sixers land.

Even if Harden looks like he did last year, there’s plenty of room for growth. He still needs to be more aggressive hunting his shot and he still needs to develop better pick-and-roll chemistry with Joel Embiid (both were points of emphasis for Doc Rivers at practice last week). If Harden looks more like Embiid’s partner in crime, rather than a secondary character in a one-man show, that will bode well for Philadelphia’s offense. A more dynamic Harden only makes life easier for Embiid.