James Harden may have already been traded out of the Philadelphia 76ers, but the All-Star guard isn’t waving the white towel just yet in his sojourn to vindicate himself at the expense of the franchise.
Just recently, he insinuated that the 76ers misused him, saying he felt that the team had him on a leash under previous head coach Doc Rivers in the previous campaign and that his input as a basketball intellectual was not respected.
"When I said ‘on a leash’, I don’t mean just shooting the basketball every time. I think the game. I’m a creator on the court. If I’ve got a voice, someone that trusts me, believes in me, understands me – I’m not a system player, I’m a system."
Those last couple of phrases will definitely come down as an iconic quip. That being said, his partner-in-crime, Joel Embiid, seems to think otherwise.
Joel Embiid weighs in on James Harden’s controversial comment about his stint with the Philadelphia 76ers
The reigning Most Valuable Player has been supportive of Harden in public even amid his strife with the front office, but stated that he never felt that the former MVP has unhappy with his role on the team.
"I think [James] did a lot of great things for us. But the notion of misuse, maybe that might have been coming from the way he felt with the coaching staff and what was said. But in my opinion, we allowed him to be himself and we gave him the ball every single possession. Because he’s really good. He’s an amazing player."
Embiid added that the emphasis on offense last season was to give him the ball in every possession and rely on his decision-making as a playmaker, which culminated in Harden leading the association in assists.
Sure, Harden’s usage rating of 25.0 may have ranked just 55th in the league in 2022-23, but that is still on par with fellow second options on other clubs. Clearly, Doc Rivers maximized his prowess as a table-setter, as the Embiid-Harden tandem garnered the most points off assists last season and was quite easily the most dominant two-man action on a nightly basis.
Harden has said himself that he did not care about being the first scoring option anymore like in his previous stint in Houston, so him kicking up a fuss about perceived misuse on the part of Philly’s coaching staff has a hazy premise to begin with.
Ultimately, both sides should be able to move on quite quickly. Harden will now play for his hometown team considered by many to now be the favorites out West, while the Philadelphia 76ers are looking steadier than ever thanks to Embiid’s MVP-level play, Tyrese Maxey’s gradual rise to stardom, and Nick Nurse’s creative genius.
One last thing though — if James Harden is already grizzling about this, good luck to him as he tries to assimilate himself on an LA Clippers team with even more top-heavy talent than his previous home. Ultimately, it’s not the 76ers’ problem anymore.