The Sixers are 2-1 and Tyrese Maxey was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. The vibes around the team are excellent as they prepare for a home matchup against the Raptors Thursday.
Unfortunately, the James Harden saga still looms over everything involving the Sixers. The Beard was on the bench during the team’s 126-98 win over the Trail Blazers in the home opener Sunday. Still, it remains unclear when — or if — Harden intends to suit up for the Sixers this season.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne gave a little insight on the current situation on NBA Today:
“It’s not clear yet [where James Harden stands on playing for the #Sixers] ... He’s practiced, he’s gone through workouts, but as one person said to me: ‘He doesn’t even really know the plays they’re running’ … He’s been in one competitive drill.”— Philly Sixers Galaxy (@sixers_galaxy) October 30, 2023
- @ramonashelburne pic.twitter.com/d8PARmFsPa
The math adds up.
After skipping offseason workouts with his teammates in L.A. and being a no-show at media day, Harden showed up fashionably late to training camp. For weeks head coach Nick Nurse talked about Harden ramping up physically. When Harden himself spoke to the media he said he was still ramping up, but intended to play in the preseason finale.
He did not.
In fact, Harden was away from the team for 10 days because of what the Sixers called a personal matter. Then of course when Harden returned there was drama that culminated in Harden not being allowed to go on the team plane to Milwaukee for the season opener. He’s been listed as out for all three games so far this season with a “return to competition reconditioning” designation.
The bottom line is that Harden doesn’t appear ready to play nor does he seem especially motivated to play. If you’re the Sixers, this might be the best outcome. Let Harden do whatever he can to avoid fines without actually playing. The league and its shiny new Player Participation Policy — which multiple teams have already made a mockery of — could intervene in some way, but if Harden is happy to stay away and the Sixers keep playing well, why not leave well enough alone?