This morning, The Athletic NBA reporter Joe Vardon published a sit-down with Sixers guard James Harden. He asked the star about whether or not he feels that he’s gotten proper credit for declining his $47.4 million player option for this season, and instead signing a one-year contract with a player option for a following season, both worth about $33 million annually. The move equipped the Sixers with maneuverability beneath the NBA’s salary cap to fit Harden and also key free-agent acquisitions (and former Harden running-mates) P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.
Here was Harden’s response when asked whether or not he’s received proper credit for his sacrifice:
“Nope, but guess what? I don’t care...There’s like a stereotype (of Harden) where people always want to talk. People don’t really know me, so they feel like they can just say anything. One thing I won’t do is give them any attention. I won’t say anything, media-wise, publicly. I don’t care, because I’m comfortable and I’m confident in the things I do on and off the court...You do things, handle business on the court and off the court, and the money will always come back...So, I’m fortunate and blessed to be in the position I am, and I’ll just continue to be me.”
I think there are basically two schools of thought with this.
On one hand: Harden didn’t bring up this grievance unprompted. Vardon asked him the question, and the guard provided a seemingly thoughtful answer. Also, there was a large portion of the public that reacted to Harden’s willingness to take $14 million less this season with some combination of skepticism, animus or mockery, thinking that Harden was either promised to recoup this dough at a later date by Daryl Morey on a subsequent contract (hence the NBA’s ongoing tampering investigation into the Sixers’ offseason) or via his clubbing buddy, Fanatics’ CEO, former Sixers minority owner Michael Rubin. This is certainly not to discount either of those two as realistic possibilities, but just to say that I could see why Harden might feel a bit aggrieved at that type of reaction, especially if neither are the case.
On the other hand: maybe just ditch the ‘nope’ part altogether and go straight to the ‘I don’t care’? Because truly, what are folks supposed to do? Hand him the first ever James Harden Memorial Thanks for Taking Less Money So We Could Sign Role Players and Maybe Be Better Award? As a Sixers fan, I do think it was very cool of him to take less money, but I’m also very much in wait-and-see mode with this team, because it’s all for naught if they’re bounced in the second round again. So don’t talk about it, be about it, James. He sacrificed money upfront and that was great, and he’s talked lots about how his healthy offseason should return him to his former glory (preseason results are uninspiring, but I’m withholding judgment) but forgive me if I’m not too concerned much at all about who’s getting credit for what on a Sixers team that hasn’t shown us anything yet.
All in all, this quote and story is no big deal whichever way you perceive it, but suffice it to say that no one on the Sixers has more to prove on the court than James Harden. If he actually does that when it matters most, there will be no shortage of folks in the fans and media lining up to give him the credit he’ll then deserve.