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James Harden attends Philadelphia 76ers’ training camp on Wednesday


James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers prepares to shoot a free throw in game six of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 11, 2023. /CFP

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers prepares to shoot a free throw in game six of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 11, 2023. /CFP

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers prepares to shoot a free throw in game six of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 11, 2023. /CFP

NBA All-Star guard James Harden joined the Philadelphia 76ers for team practice on Wednesday, which came as a surprise after he skipped the team’s Media Day event on Monday and Tuesday’s practice.

“He looked good,” the 76ers’ head coach Nick Nurse said of Harden. “He looked good, participated in the majority of [practice], anyway, and looked like he’s physically in good shape.”

Harden left before the media was allowed into the arena. Instead, the 76ers posted several photos of him practicing on their social media account. According to ESPN, his intention to leave hasn’t changed.

James Harden (R) of the Philadelphia 76ers and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers speak to each other in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 23, 2022. /CFP

James Harden (R) of the Philadelphia 76ers and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers speak to each other in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 23, 2022. /CFP

James Harden (R) of the Philadelphia 76ers and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers speak to each other in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 23, 2022. /CFP

“We’re all grown men here,” teammate Tobias Harris said. “Everybody understands the business of the game of basketball at this point. Personally, he doesn’t have to address myself or anybody, truthfully.”

“But his participation, in my opinion, is addressing that; he’s here, and his attitude and energy today allowed everybody to understand that he wants to go out here and compete with us and get stuff done. In my opinion, that’s all, really, that matters, is his energy and effort towards myself and all our teammates,” Harris said.

The relationship between Harden and the 76ers will take a lot of effort to fix, if it is still fixable, after he asked the team to trade him, was let down, and reacted by publicly criticizing the management. The 76ers tried to show their sincerity by paying Harden 50 percent of his $35.6 million salary for the 2023-24 season – 25 percent last week and the other 25 percent on July 1. However, what Harden wants is to depart Philadelphia.

Bam Adebayo (L) of the Miami Heat guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida, March 1, 2023. /CFP

Bam Adebayo (L) of the Miami Heat guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida, March 1, 2023. /CFP

Bam Adebayo (L) of the Miami Heat guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, Florida, March 1, 2023. /CFP

Harden’s best hope of winning a ring or getting paid the way he prefers does not involve the 76ers. The team got knocked out twice in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the past two seasons. Harden took a $14 million pay cut when he signed the two-year, $68.6 million contract last year but was not offered the big deal he had expected this year. He agreed to exercise the player option, but the 76ers have, so far, made it very difficult for him to be traded by asking for too much in negotiations.

After the Milwaukee Bucks bet everything on Damian Lillard and the Boston Celtics traded for Jrue Holiday, Harden became the biggest fish left on the market. However, interested buyers seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach instead of breaking the bank to acquire him immediately.

For example, Harden wants to join the Los Angeles Clippers to pair with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but the Clippers have no intention to pay the sky-high price the 76ers are asking for. In fact, the Clippers are not even in a hurry to sign extensions with their star duo, Leonard and George, both of whom have the player option available to them after this season.

Scottie Barnes (L) of the Toronto Raptors guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 31, 2023. /CFP

Scottie Barnes (L) of the Toronto Raptors guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 31, 2023. /CFP

Scottie Barnes (L) of the Toronto Raptors guards James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the game at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 31, 2023. /CFP

The Miami Heat have missed both Lillard and Holiday. Harden is definitely a good upgrade for the team in the point guard position from 37-year-old Kyle Lowry. Nonetheless, today’s Harden can no longer give what the Heat need the most: the explosive, game-changing scoring ability. Besides, the 76ers are unlikely interested in Tyler Herro, the best asset the Heat can offer.

The Toronto Raptors lost in the race for Lillard. They have good enough assets for the 76ers, which can select between Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, plus many future first-round draft picks. However, even with Harden, the Raptors don’t look much closer to the throne, even in the east. Furthermore, the last star player who joined the Raptors – Kawhi Leonard was traded there in 2018 – only played one season on the team.

The Raptors will visit TD Garden to play the Boston Celtics in their first preseason game on Sunday. “I think so,” Nurse said when asked if Harden will appear in that game. “He’s here. He knows the schedule, and we expect him to be there. I think we can wait and see on [where things go from here], but every indication is that he’s here [now].”



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