Despite the fact that James Harden still feels like he is in his first season in Philly, it certainly seems that his voice looms large in the locker room. At media day on Monday, he addressed reporters with his co-star Joel Embiid.
The two spent their press conference joking about Harden’s pay cut, last season’s drama and the team’s offseason plans. It was revealed that not only did many Sixers vacation together with Michael Rubin in the Hamptons, they also spent a good chunk of the offseason in California practicing together.
“We didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to, just because Joel likes to be by himself,” Harden joked.
When Embiid was asked what he added to his game this summer, he lightheartedly said “nothing” and that “we’ll just have to see.”
The Sixers made sure to take advantage of the first full offseason since the pandemic.
“This is the first normal season we’ve had in three years,” head coach Doc Rivers said, “We’ve had a great summer, our entire team spent time together.”
According to Georges Niang, it was Harden who organized the trip. Harden felt the need to build chemistry with the squad, as he only played 21 regular-season games with the team before the playoffs last season.
Niang reiterated that having a full offseason and training camp was very helpful in learning his new teammates’ tendencies.
While this group has yet to play a game together, it certainly feels like a tighter knit group than the previous iterations of the Joel Embiid-led Sixers.
“The faster we can build that chemistry off the court I think that will be a lot better for us on the court,” Harden said.
The team is hoping that training camp will be a similar experience, with Rivers taking the squad down to Charlestown, South Carolina.
Doc Rivers says part of the appeal of coming to Charleston - where he first came with the Pat Riley Knicks in the 1990s - is to have a chance to teach his players about American history. Said a professor spoke to the team last night and other activities are planned this week.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) September 27, 2022
Taking his team away from home for training camp is not new for Rivers. He famously took the Celtics to Rome for camp in 2007. It’s something Rivers hopes will turn the Sixers’ collection of talent into a team.
“I think of all the things that most people miss, it’s team building,” Rivers said. “You watch Golden State, they’re a bought-in basketball team. Every team that has won a title … I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a team that has won a title, I’ve been in the Finals, and you don’t get that deep unless it’s 100 percent bought-in. You have no chance in this league if you’re not. If you think you’re just going to do it with talent in this league, you’re nuts.”
The offseason time together started the Sixers’ team-building journey. They’re hoping the time in Charleston will only deepen those bonds ahead of the season.
“We had a good week of work in, and just hanging around each other,” Harden said, “we were getting to know each other. I think, even this week is going to be great for us.”