When James Harden chose to pick up his player option and request a trade just before the start of free agency, the Philadelphia 76ers found themselves in a precarious position.
There was no clear path to replacing Harden’s productivity, as him being on an expiring wasn’t going to yield a massive return and the team didn’t have cap space to make any big moves in free agency. The result has been a very quiet start to the offseason from Philly, signing Patrick Beverley and Mo Bamba as their only moves thus far. Harden trade rumors have also quieted considerably after plenty of rumblings about interest from the Clippers, Knicks, and Heat (with the latter, of course, now focused on Damian Lillard) in the initial days after the news broke.
Now, there seems to be a chance the Sixers try to mend fences with Harden and bring him back next year, which would keep them in the Eastern Conference hunt after they were a game away from the conference finals a year ago. Joel Embiid seems to support that plan, as he’s continued to hang out with Harden this summer, with the two (along with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey) all being together at Michael Rubin’s white party last week.
On Saturday night in Vegas, Embiid and Harden were again together for another Rubin party during Summer League, and the MVP sat down with Rachel Nichols to offer a diplomatic take on Harden’s trade request, while also noting he hopes he’ll change his mind and come back.
Spoke to Joel Embiid about James Harden’s trade request – Embiid said he’s hopeful Harden’s “mindset can be changed.” The two were partying with @MichaelRubin last night at the @Fanatics/@TheNBPA Summer League blowout. pic.twitter.com/9sKwp3HGsg
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) July 10, 2023
Embiid’s voice should carry significant weight within the Sixers organization, and that he wants Harden to be back should only embolden Daryl Morey and company to see if the situation with Harden can, in fact, be reconciled. If there’s not a great situation out there for Harden, and all indications are his preference is to be in L.A. on the Clippers, it’s possible he could be amenable to just sticking around in Philly. There’s also the possibility talks have slowed on Harden because the league is waiting to see what happens with Damian Lillard, as he works hard to get moved to the Miami Heat. Once that deal goes through — or a surprise team steps up to make a better offer than Miami can — Harden talks might again heat up. In the meantime, Embiid will hope to have his pick-and-roll partner back next year, as he’s not looking to take a stepback in the midst of his prime.