Harden’s gone soft, causing potential $270 million headache for 76ers

The Philadelphia franchise was as soon as held up because the intelligent little poster baby for tanking however on the finish of The Course of, all they may very well be left with is Joel Embiid and the most important albatross wage in NBA historical past with James Harden.

Philly are at lengthy odds to maintain their playoff marketing campaign alive after slumping to their second straight loss to Miami, 119-103, of their second-round Japanese Convention match-up.

Embiid, most likely in a cool wanting face masks, is because of return for recreation three at dwelling on Saturday (9am AEST) after struggling a facial fracture within the first-round collection win over Toronto, so all isn’t misplaced … but.

It could take a mammoth turnaround for the ice-cold Sixers to beat the red-hot Warmth in 4 of the following 5 matches to advance to the Japanese Convention finals.

After which they face the daunting proposition of deciding what to do with Harden.

The ageing former MVP might have signed a three-year $US161 million contract extension at Brooklyn earlier than the season and, ominously it seems, he declined and was traded to the 76ers within the Ben Simmons deal in February.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Miami Heat during the second half in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at FTX Arena on May 04, 2022 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Picture by Michael Reaves/Getty Pictures)

Harden has a clause in his deal – which he should train earlier than the tip of June previous to free company – to choose in for subsequent season, the final 12 months on his present contract, to play for the Sixers for a lazy $47 million. 

He’s prone to ask for a brand new contract on the max price, which might imply Philly can be meting out a five-year extension valued at an eye-watering $270 million with the 2026-27 season wage rising to greater than $61 million.

By that stage he can be 37 and at his present price of decline, be fortunate to be enjoying to a typical to stay on an NBA roster.

At 33 he’s already exhibiting vital indicators of regression. 

When he received the MVP award in 2018 he averaged 30.4 factors, 8.8 assists and 5 rebounds. He adopted that with splits of 36.1, 7.5 and 6.6 and 34.3, 7.5 and 6.6 the following two seasons however hasn’t scored over 25 a recreation since. 

His 22.5 for the primary 44 video games of this season at Brooklyn is now right down to 21 at Philly and even with Embiid out towards the Warmth and Harden having the inexperienced mild to steer the offence, he’s solely put up 16 and 20 within the first two matches, outscored by Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.

Harden has been lionised for his efforts to be a top-level NBA participant for the previous decade whereas being a infamous late-night celebration animal however his professionalism needs to be questioned – once you’re getting paid gargantuan eight-figure salaries, the least you need to do is to be in prime bodily situation, not obese and unable to maintain tempo with opponents.

For all of the ache of The Course of a decade in the past when the Sixers tanked for 3 straight seasons to get excessive draft picks, solely Embiid stays of their as soon as bulging asset financial institution as an authorized certain factor.

Lottery picks Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams, Dario Saric had been traded earlier than their rookie offers expired as they weren’t all they had been cracked as much as be.

They landed what turned out to be a high-value first-rounder in Mikal Bridges at No.10 in 2018 however traded him for Zhaire Smith and a future first which was used within the deal to amass Harris, the second-most overpaid Sixer behind Harden, incomes $180 million over 5 years regardless of by no means sniffing an All Star workforce.

Bridges has developed into one of many higher younger two-way prospects within the NBA with the Suns. The Sixers have developed a 2020 late first-rounder in Maxey right into a starter however their general draft return for all that Course of effort has been dreadful.

And, after all, Simmons, the opposite, different Philly No.1 decide from The Course of was the centrepiece within the Harden deal though the Sixers positively don’t remorse eliminating him after the circus of the previous 12 months, extra so now that the Boomers star wants again surgical procedure which is able to put him out of motion till pre-season begins in October.

The fear for Sixers followers is that their normal supervisor Daryl Morey loves Harden from their days collectively on the Rockets regardless of the All-Star guard’s ongoing historical past of post-season flame-outs. 

And he loves stashing property so he’s extra prone to re-sign Harden than not within the hope of getting good manufacturing for the following few seasons after which dealing him away towards the tip of his deal.

It was the case that no contract within the NBA is untradeable however Houston guard John Wall is proving the exception to that rule this 12 months by getting paid $50 million to do nothing for the Rockets. He’s going to get the identical subsequent season too until somebody takes him off Houston’s arms as an expiring contract.

A Harden deal for $270 million can be even tougher to shift. If he returns for another season, that may very well be palatable for the Sixers however re-signing him long run might find yourself simply as painful as these notorious days of The Course of.

Ben Simmons

(Picture by James Devaney/Getty Pictures)

Should-see matches

There are not any video games on Friday so productiveness in lots of Australian workplaces is forecast to rise dramatically in the course of the day. 

Saturday: Warmth at 76ers, 9am AEST

Return of the Masks. Joel Embiid is because of swimsuit up for Philadelphia and he can anticipate no favours within the paint towards the Warmth’s bodily defenders Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker. If he settles for soar pictures, the Sixers may very well be getting swept.

Sunday: Celtics at Bucks, 5.30am

Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t neglect your booties ’trigger it’s cooooold on the market at present. Boston head to Milwaukee with the collection tied up at 1-1 after the champions thumped them in recreation one earlier than they returned the favour. Defensive participant of the 12 months Marcus Good is due again from a thigh drawback however the Celtics will want their armada of elite defenders to forestall Giannis Antetekounmpo from having his method with them. 

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