Harden’s plans have been clear since Philadelphia’s season ended: He was committed to staying with the 76ers and committed to help them get better.
"Taking less money this year to sign as many players as we needed to help us contend and be the last team standing was very, very important to me," Harden said in an interview this month with The Associated Press. "I wanted to show the organization, the Sixers fans and everybody else who supports what we're trying to accomplish, what I'm trying to accomplish individually, that this is what I'm about."
Harden vowed to return to for after battling a lingering hamstring injury that cut his production with the Brooklyn Nets, and later the Sixers, after he was acquired in a trade-deadline deal.
"Over the last two years we have taken major steps toward our ultimate goal of becoming champions,” said coach Doc Rivers. “James shares our drive to win a title, and he believes being a 76er gives him the best opportunity to do that. Together, we will work tirelessly to achieve our goal.”
A member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, Harden averaged 22 points this season for Brooklyn and Philadelphia, his lowest since he became a starter in the 2012-13 season. He turns 33 in August.
Harden, a three-time scoring champion, told the AP he was nonplussed about taking “less” money to return and chase a championship in Philly.
“For any other players, that’s a max contract,” he said of his lower numbers, “but it’s like, for me, I was not the same James Harden.
The 76ers lost to top-seeded Miami in the second round of the playoffs. Harden had four turnovers, four baskets and did not score in the second half in the decisive Game 6 loss. They haven’t advanced past the second round since 2001. Their last NBA championship came in 1983.
“Coming back and being the aggressor, the scorer first and then the playmaker, is something that I need for myself,” he said.
Harden has appeared in 942 games (728 starts) with Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Houston and Oklahoma City and holds averages of 24.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.5 steals.
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