This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, but it’s always nice for fans to get confirmation. Shams Charania has now reported that James Harden will be making his debut for the Philadelphia 76ers in their first game back from the All-Star break on Friday, as they go on the road to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.
10-time NBA All-Star James Harden will make his Philadelphia 76ers debut on Friday at Minnesota.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 24, 2022
Again, we kind of knew this was coming. The Sixers said they would be keeping Harden sidelined until after the All-Star break while he finished rehabbing his hamstring, and he’s now been removed from the team’s latest injury report.
Plus, Daryl Morey unofficially announced as much with this remark on Twitter:
So, if you had any lingering doubt or concern that you might be waiting a bit longer for Harden’s debut, you can rest easy now that the game is just one day away.
The arrival of Harden’s shot creation and elite playmaking gives the Sixers so much of the kind of perimeter creation they’ve been lacking next to Embiid. Now, they’ll obviously just need some time to rework their offense and develop chemistry. For starters, Philly will be running more pick-and-roll now, which will be an adjustment for the team as a whole after ranking below average in pick-and-roll usage, but especially for Joel Embiid. He has improved his screening and off-ball cutting this season, though, so that bodes well for this new partnership. The fact that Embiid’s always been willing (and able) to adjust and expand his game to support his teammates is a hugely important factor here.
Doc Rivers should stagger his two superstars, but how they learn to operate off one another — whether it’s Embiid’s increased rolling, or Harden maybe (hopefully) being any more motivated to move and spot up off the ball — will be the main thing to watch once they take to the court.
There’s also the matter of the starting lineup. Do they keep Matisse Thybulle in to maintain some elite defense on the wing, or go for Danny Green for a balance of some smart team defense with quality shooting? Or maybe even try bringing Georges Niang into the mix as another sharpshooter to spread the floor? Some experimentation with different looks for a while would be a good approach to have. Our own Jackson Frank did a great job diving into this debate here.
There’s a lot to focus on and a lot to look forward to with this Sixers team. And it all starts tomorrow.