James Harden took two photographs within the second half Thursday night time and missed each of them.
His last try in the Sixers’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Heat was a three-pointer with 1:31 left and his workforce down by 12 factors. He subbed out 23 seconds later and watched the bitter last seconds of his first season as a Sixer from the sidelines.
The three-time scoring champion didn’t have a lot so as to add on his efficiency.
“We ran our offense,” he mentioned. “I feel like the ball moved and it just didn’t get back to me.”
Excluding Game 1 of the Nets’ second-round collection with the Bucks final yr, when Harden exited after 43 seconds with a proper hamstring damage, Thursday’s recreation was his first playoff contest with no free-throw makes an attempt since 2016. He’d by no means performed as a lot within the postseason as in Game 6 (42 minutes and 59 seconds) and completed with no foul photographs.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers didn’t wish to fixate on Harden or single any participant out as most culpable for his workforce’s second straight Round 2 exit.
“Listen, I’m not going to make this a referendum on James,” Rivers mentioned. “We just could’ve played better. The ball could’ve moved more. Did we have enough time to get our stuff in? I don’t know that. I thought we did, honestly. I really did. But clearly, we didn’t.”
Counting the playoffs, Harden performed 33 video games with the Sixers following the February deal that lastly fulfilled Ben Simmons’ commerce request and despatched the 10-time All-Star from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.
There had been good flashes, engaging ideas that the Sixers may make all of it work and break by means of the daunting second-round barrier. Still, it not often appeared the workforce had something particularly dependable in troublesome conditions apart from Joel Embiid being nice. And the MVP runner-up was properly beneath his greatest bodily through the playoffs, struggling a torn ligament in his proper thumb, a concussion, and a proper orbital fracture. Embiid mentioned Thursday night time his present expectation is he’ll require offseason surgical procedure on his thumb and that the orbital fracture ought to heal with out surgical procedure.
Those Embiid accidents diminished the possibilities of the items clicking into place, even when moments like Harden’s 16-point fourth quarter in Game 4 towards Miami supplied occasional bursts of hope.
“Man, for me personally, it’s been a long year,” Harden mentioned. “But since I’ve been here, it’s been great. We’re trying to build something so fast. We’re trying to build a championship contender team so fast — which I still think we are, we’re just missing a few pieces. But other than that, we tried to go for it right away. We just came up a little short. … We’ve still got to put work in and continue to keep going.”
At his introductory press convention, Harden mentioned he deliberate to train his participant choice of roughly $47.4 million for subsequent season. He was requested whether or not that’s nonetheless the case.
“I’ll be here, yeah,” he mentioned. “Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better, and (to) do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”
If Harden picked up his choice after which signed an extension, he’d be eligible to make virtually $275 million in a contract lasting by means of the 2026-27 season.
Would he be keen to take lower than the max?
“Whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow and put us up there with the best of them,” he mentioned.
The most optimistic projection for Harden’s future entails improved chemistry with core items like Embiid and Tyrese Maxey; significant growth from in-house function gamers (Paul Reed turning into a stretch 5 on the NBA degree, as an example); and savvy decision-making by Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
But Harden’s well being is paramount. He performed by means of a Grade 2 proper hamstring pressure final postseason. This yr, he waited till after the All-Star break to debut for the Sixers due to left hamstring tightness.
“Honestly, it’s been a long two years for me,” he mentioned. “I’m finally starting to kind of feel OK again. It’ll be a great summer for me to get my body right and be ready to go for next year. These last two years have been a whirlwind, though.”
Harden will flip 33 years previous in August.
“I’m excited, man,” he mentioned of the upcoming offseason. “I’ve been trying to get right throughout the course of a basketball season for two years straight. That’s not it. All last summer I was rehabbing and it was a little frustrating, because I’m not used to going through something like that.
“But it is what is. I’m just happy to be healthy now. I’ve got a full summer to be straight and to do the things necessary to come back even better next year.”