Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden reportedly wanted to show that he could sacrifice for the team by giving up $14 million in his contract negotiations to allow the team to pry forward P.J. Tucker from the Miami Heat last offseason.
“But Harden had also come to Philadelphia thinking he would be compensated like he used to be,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote. “After his first season in Philadelphia, Harden took approximately $14 million less than what he was due in a player option so the team could sign veteran forward P.J. Tucker away from the Miami Heat.
“It was sold by the Sixers as ‘sacrifice’ to both Harden and the public — a line he dutifully repeated throughout the season.”
Harden’s decision allowed the Sixers to add a key rotation player to their roster for the 2022-23 season.
“You have to sacrifice to get to where you’ve never been,” Harden said. “I’m in a really good space on the court and off the court.”
However, the move wasn’t enough to get the Sixers into the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2022-23 campaign, as the team came up short against the Boston Celtics in the second round. The Sixers had a 3-2 series lead against Boston, but the team lost Game 6 at home before returning to Boston and losing badly in Game 7.
While Harden is no longer the same player that he was when he won an MVP award with the Houston Rockets, he still has been effective for the Sixers.
During the 2022-23 season, the 10-time All-Star averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
This offseason, Harden has stated that it’s too late to repair his relationship with the Sixers. He wants to be traded after exercising his player option with the team for the 2023-24 season.
While losing Tucker initially hurt Miami, the team still advanced to the NBA Finals last season. The Heat made a crazy run as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Celtics on their way to the NBA Finals.
Caleb Martin, who was one of the team’s key replacements for Tucker, shined in the playoffs, especially against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Martin scored in double figures in every single game in the series against the Celtics. He averaged 19.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 60.2 percent from the field and 48.9 percent from beyond the arc.
While Harden may have made a sacrifice last offseason, he has now put Philly in a tough position this offseason as it looks to navigate the future with his status with the franchise in limbo.