James Harden said after the 76ers lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals that he would be back in Philadelphia the following season. It turns out that it will cost him.
On Friday, the 32-year-old former NBA MVP reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the 76ers — and is taking a $15 million pay cut for the 2022-23 season, according to The Athletic’s and Stadium’s Shams Charania.
The deal, which includes a player option for the second year, comes after Harden declined his $47.4 million player option on Wednesday, a move that was seen as a desire by Harden to give Philadelphia more salary-cap space and roster flexibility to improve the pieces around him and NBA scoring champ Joel Embiid.
It paid off this week. Harden’s pay cut allowed Philadelphia to land free agent PJ Tucker and re-sign Daniel House Jr. Tucker, who came over from Miami, agreed to a reported three-year, $33.2 million fully-guaranteed contract. House’s deal is reportedly for two years and $8.5 million.
The moves also provides the 76ers with a familiar look — Harden, Tucker and House played together for three seasons in Houston from 2017-20, with current 76ers president Daryl Morey serving as Rockets GM during that time as well.
Harden came over to Philadelphia at the trade deadline last season in a blockbuster deal with the Nets for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond plus draft picks. Though Harden averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games for the 76ers, there were concerns about his age and commitment as well as a reluctance to be aggressive, particularly in the playoffs.
In the 76ers’ season-ending loss to the Heat in Philadelphia, Harden took just two shots in the second half.
“I’ll be here,” Harden said after the loss. “Whatever allows us to continue to grow and get better and do the things necessary to win and compete at a high level.”