James Harden presented by the 76ers: ‘Philadelphia was my first choice’ even when I was in Houston

Philadelphia (WPVI) – New 76ers star guard James Harden said during his preliminary press conference Tuesday that he’s been watching Philadelphia for a long time.

After more than eight seasons with the Houston Rockets, Harden traded with the Brooklyn Nets just over a year ago.

Harden said that even at that time he wanted to play for the Sixers.

“Originally when I was surfing everything I was doing in Houston, Philly was my first choice,” he said. “That didn’t happen.”

But when asked how it feels to be in Philly now?

“I’ve known for a long time that this is a perfect fit,” he said. “You have a big guy – the best big guy in the league in Joel (Embied) – and obviously coaching. Just top to bottom it made sense. I’m happy and blessed to be here.”

He continued, “As Doc and everyone know, and everyone wants, is to win, to be the last team standing.”

Harden has missed his last four net games with a hamstring injury and the first two games since joining the 76ers. He trained Monday and Tuesday at the team’s training center in Camden, New Jersey, and will sit out Tuesday night at home against Boston and Thursday’s game in Milwaukee.

Harden is scheduled to make his 76-man debut on February 25 in Minnesota.

“After the (All-Star) break, we’ll start things off,” he said.

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Harden is excited to be pairing up with World Player of the Year Joel Embiid, who leads the NBA with a score of 29.5 points per game.

“I think we complement each other,” said Harden, who leads the league in 10.2 assists. “The whole world knows how great Joel is at playing. His presence alone is incredible. I feel the same way about making my teammates better, and we have such a great group of players.”

“These fans are the best fans in the NBA,” he said. “A lot of teams say that. I’m just glad they’re on my side and I don’t get booed. Going to this arena would be special.”

Harden, who is earning $44.3 million this year, said he will pick his $46.8 million player option next year to stay with the 76ers.

the Trade the Nets with Harden and Paul Millsap To the Sixers last week versus Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, the 2022 first-round pick and 2027 first-round pick.

The Philadelphia front office is delighted to have a star to play alongside Embiid.

“Having a top player and a man on his way to being a top player if he can keep up is really exciting,” said Daryl Morey, 76ers general manager. “You’re looking at very long odds if you don’t have two great players at this level.”

“Being a winner is tough and that’s what we want to be and that’s why we’ve done deals like this,” said coach Doc Rivers.

Harden’s 22.5-point scoring average this season is up slightly from his career average of 25.0, and he believes he’ll do more than just score 76 goals.

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Sixers fans we spoke with on Tuesday are excited to have Harden in Philadelphia.

So, we had one simple question for them: What are your expectations for the 76s now that James Harden is on the list?

Wyncote’s Ron Dutton says, “They go deeper into the playoffs. That’s my realistic expectation. They go deep in the playoffs.”

Roxborough’s Brian Conroy soberly says, “The Sixers definitely have a chance. I mean other than the Suns, you’ve got them as the best team in the NBA.”

“I think it will lift the morale of the team, especially if you have someone willing to work with the team,” says Zelda Joachim of Southwest Philadelphia.

But not everyone participates in the bandwagon.

John Saint of West Philadelphia says, “I don’t agree with this trade at all. Absolutely.”

Senestant says when you think about James Harden’s lackluster playoff performance in the past, and what the Sixers gave up to get it, it doesn’t stack up.

“We shouldn’t have traded Seth (Carrie). They made Brooklyn better,” he says. “What has James Harden proven through the playoffs? He’s not that guy. So, good luck, Sixers. I think.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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