Sure, Harden was still capable of giving you 20 points and 10 assists per night, but the dominant scorer we witnessed during his time with the Houston Rockets seemed like a distant memory.
However, when speaking to Yahoo Sport’s Chris Haynes during a recent interview, Harden made sure to touch upon his recent ‘struggles’ and was clear that he intends to rediscover his best form in the coming season.
“I wasn’t right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double. If anybody else had those numbers, we’d be talking about them getting the max. People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That’s just what it was. I’m in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I’m just looking forward to next season,” Harden said during the July 18 interview.
Despite having what was considered to be a down year, Harden still finished his first season in Philadelphia averaging 21 points, 10.5 assists, and 7.1 rebounds per game over 21 regular-season games. He then followed that up by averaging 18.6 points, 8.6 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game during the playoffs.
Harden Taking a Paycut
As we entered the off-season, it was widely expected that Harden would be looking to maximize his earning potential, as he starts to approach the final chapters of his career. However, when speaking with Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the California native explained how he instructed the 76ers front office to improve the roster before sitting down at the negotiating table for his new contract.
“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign, and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in a position to accomplish that,” Harden explained to Haynes.
It would seem that Harden’s decision has paid dividends, as the Sixers have since acquired PJ Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, and Danuel House, giving Philadelphia a more robust rotation that is vastly improved in both defense and perimeter scoring.
Kendrick Perkins Heaps Praise on Harden
After Harden forced his way out of Houston and then did a similar thing in Brooklyn, he began to earn himself a reputation of being a flight risk, causing his stock around the league to take a hit.
However, after his decision to take less money so that Philadelphia could improve their roster, he’s starting to be viewed in a more favorable light. During a July 18 episode of ESPN’S First Take, former NBA Champion Kendrick Perkins heaped praise on the superstar guard’s actions this off-season, noting how Harden’s actions have spoken louder than his words.
“It wasn’t just the comments, it was him opting out of I believe $47 million and taking less money. I’m not a person that wants to hear words – his actions are actually speaking. When you opt-out and take less money, and I get it, he’s already made a lot of money, and is making a lot of shoe money from Adidias…but yes, his actions are saying ‘let’s get this done. I want to win a championship, I want to go out here and build.’
They acquired PJ Tucker…he’s been working his behind off. So, yes, James Harden has proven that he’s all-in. He’s proven that he’s lost himself within the team, and I do think that he will come back a better version of what he did last season and in the post-season,” Perkins said when discussing Harden’s recent team-first actions.
No matter what happens in the coming season, it’s fair to say that Harden is fully committed to competing for a championship in Philadelphia, and his actions this summer have proven that.