Many Philadelphia 76ers fans were stunned by the 3-2 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The truth is, it’s only surprising if you don’t follow James Harden’s career.
Harden isn’t the only reason the Sixers lost.
However, he is the biggest reason, and it could be argued that his general apathetic leadership, when he sleepwalks at the biggest moments, influences the rest of the team. Although Doc Rivers was fired, the loss to the Celtics is not as much his fault as Harden and Joel Embiid’s. The head coach can only do so much if the team’s best and highest-paid players don’t show up in key games.
It’s safe to say that Harden is the biggest failure among superstars when it comes to playoff success. He’s never adapted to the fact that what he develops in the regular season doesn’t work in the postseason. Harden relies on weak fouls to put points on the board, and when those whistles aren’t blown, he disappears, becomes completely passive, and instead of adapting, continues to wave his hand instead of trying to play normal basketball.
And it’s not like Harden makes up for it with the defensive side of the ball. Even his passing, which is usually considered strength, is extremely lazy and ineffective when teams know he has no interest in getting the ball. He is extremely prone to spin, best exemplified by throwing alley-oops at Tobias Harris five feet above his head as if Harris were Aaron Gordon in his prime.
Now thirty-three years old, Harden struggles to get past defenders and can barely jump. This causes him to lose confidence on the edge and routinely blocks shots from even mediocre defenders. Despite three amazing games and a lead in this year’s playoff round, Harden was unable to shoot more than forty percent from the field. He completely blew the Sixers’ chances of winning four of those games with performances where Shake Milton would have been an improvement. End of Harden.
He will never win a championship as one of the highest paid footballers.
While once a brilliant CEO and making cool moves from time to time, Daryl Morey has centered his recent career around James Harden and his obsession with the 2018 Rockets. It’s doubtful Morey will be able to sever ties with Harden, even if it’s an obvious decision . Letting the stars walk free is hard to deal with, but overpaying and sinking a franchise’s hopes of reaching the promised land is worse.
The Sixers were in a similar situation in 2019. While they certainly have different perceptions as players, Tobias Harris was right there. The Sixers recently traded for future free agent Tobias Harris and the conventional wisdom was that they had to keep Tobias Harris because they gave up assets for him and he was better than nothing. It wasn’t.
As soon as Harris signed, it instantly became the worst contract in the NBA and one the team has been unable to offload in any trade since. If the Sixers haven’t learned a lesson from this then the trial is truly a failure and they might as well blow the team up because if Harden is retained making around fifty million dollars a year this team has no future and should replace Joel Embiid at this point.
Morey was in a difficult position when he traded for Harden, and it was justified. That doesn’t mean he should double down, because it’s obvious he’s the most fraudulent star of the modern era, and he’s getting worse before our eyes. The Washington Wizards weren’t smart enough to let Bradley Beal go, and he now has the crown for the worst contract in the league. Re-signing Harden would be the first step towards becoming the laughingstock of the league, as the Wizards have been for years.
The Sixers could even get something in return for Harden. Although he is a free agent, a signing and trade is still possible if Harden demands maximum money and another team is willing to accommodate. That would be the best course of action, but even if that doesn’t happen and the Sixers get nothing in return, it’s still better than overpaying him. The team only has one more year of the Harris albatross, which could make it a valuable expiring trade or take its place next season.
Stopping Harden would make any other move almost impossible and would certainly lead to Embiid asking for a trade in the future as the team continues to struggle in the playoffs. The future is still bleak, but it is better than a completely hopeless one, which will be the case if Harden is apprehended.